Wheat School: Flattened! Three tips for managing lodged wheat


Recent weather events in parts of Ontario have really flattened some wheat crops. There’s an awesome crop out there, but harvesting it will now be much more difficult.

In this episode of the Wheat School, Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson talks about combine set-ups, the possibility of applying a pre-harvest burndown, and is later joined by Andrew Dawson, grain trader at Bacres Grain, to chat about what the elevator can do to help out.

First off, Johnson says that since the wheat is so tight to the ground, the whole plant has to come through the combine, which also means going slow.

“You have to give those walkers a chance to get the grain out of the straw or we’re going to have green strips behind combines, from one end of the field to the next,” says Johnson.

The second point Johnson wants to stress is that the reel becomes important and that it should be forward and down, so that the reel picks up the wheat and puts the heads up and over the cutterbar, before it goes into the combine.

Third, Johnson recommends using lifters and adds that to really make them work, combine across the direction that the wheat is lodged. Johnson admits that he has an auger header, which doesn’t work as well as a draper header, because the feed is more uniform, and it can get lower.

Johnson’s last recommendation, which he understands no one will really want to do, is to combine one way. (Story continues below)

Dawson travels a fair-sized area during his commutes to work, and says that the majority of farmers are dealing with a lodging situation to some extent.

What gets even more challenging is that after using a fusarium fungicide — which is always a good idea, says both Johnson and Dawson — the stay-green effect afterwards poses an extra challenge to harvest. High humidity and heads close to the ground could mean sprouted grain in the head.

“When I see sprouts, I just think of low falling number,” says Dawson. When there’s low falling number, that affects flour millers’ ability to produce the product with the right specifications for their customers.

“Any time the grain is over 19 per cent moisture, you get fusarium,” says Johnson, adding that there isn’t a lot of fusarium to start with, especially if a fungicide was applied. But the problem is the small kernels that are normally blown out the back that are infected with fusarium can spread the disease to the healthy, big kernels, says Johnson.

Dawson says that elevators can’t do a whole lot with DON-infected wheat, other than sending it to the feed market, and even that has limits.

Pre-harvest glyphosate will help dry the canopy out and help harvest conditions, says Johnson, but cautions that it can’t be applied until the peduncle has changed colour.

“The farmer’s making all kinds of sacrifices,” says Dawson — changing up harvest plans to get the crop picked up and in the bin — so Dawson says that Bacres Grains, and other elevators, may take wetter grain and forgive the drying charges. Talk to your grain buyer sooner rather than later.

“If we can encourage getting it harvested that much faster, not having to wait for a dry down, if and when that happens, it’ll be better for everyone,” adds Dawson.

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