September 3, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

Grain harvest will soon begin in Kentucky and now is the time for farmers to prepare equipment to head into the fields.

Fine-tuning equipment now can reduce mechanical delays, improve performance, assure a safe harvest and maintain grain quality.

A few hours spent adjusting combines, augers/ conveyors and dryers and cleaning storage bins will usually have a considerable payback in the form of reduced elevator discounts when corn is delivered for sale, said Sam McNeill, University of Kentucky Extension agricultural engineer.

All equipment that will contact corn as it moves from the field to the storage bin should be thoroughly cleaned prior to harvest to minimize mold and insect infestations and protect the purity of individual corn varieties or seed lots. All combines, hauling vehicles, conveyors, drying equipment and storage bins should be thoroughly cleaned before the rush of harvest begins.

Combines should be serviced and adjusted according to the owner's manual prior to harvest and checked during harvest to reduce machine losses and assure minimum mechanical damage to corn kernels, McNeill said.

Remember that a three-quarter pound ear (or equivalent weight) in a 1/100-acre area, or 2 loose kernels per square foot, left in the field after harvest are equal to one bushel per acre loss, he said.

Dryer maintenance will help producers get the most out of the dollars spent on gas and electricity, reduce equipment downtime, and avoid over-drying grain. Clean out grain dryers, perform a routine maintenance check on sensors and controls, and test fire the unit(s) prior to the beginning of harvest to assure efficient operation.

Thoroughly clean out all grain bins, especially caked grain that will contaminate the new crop. Sweep down walls, ladders, ledges and floors inside grain bins to remove old grain and fine material where insects and mold spores can lie in wait to invade the incoming crop.

Provide dust protection masks so workers will avoid potential breathing problems when cleaning bins and equipment. Use a wet/dry vacuum to completely remove dust and small grain particles from all conveyors and other areas around the facility. After thoroughly cleaning bins, mow the vegetation around them to eliminate areas where rodents and insects like to live and multiply.

After cleaning and mowing, spray a residual pesticide inside both the bin and outside the perimeter to the point of runoff for additional protection from insects. Be sure to read pesticide labels carefully for any specific delays prior to filling the bin or other restrictions after application.

For additional protection, treat the space under the false floor of grain bins with diatomaceous earth to control insect populations in that area.

Don't confuse residual pesticides with fumigants, which have no carry over effect, and keep in mind that fumigants are toxic to humans and other warm-blooded animals and therefore are Restricted Use pesticides.

Treatment of grain soon after harvest often determines the storability of a crop and can strongly influence its quality and value when delivered to the end-user -- which may be several weeks, months or even years after harvest.

Thus, it behooves corn farmers to keep equipment in good operating condition and to implement sound grain harvest, drying and storage practices to maintain the U.S. reputation of being a reliable supplier of good quality corn to the global market, McNeill said.



Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Sam McNeill, 270-365-7541 ext. 213