Benefits of Earlier Harvest
With the high costs of energy these days, it’s tempting to let those sunflower seeds sit in the field and let Mother Nature do all the drying for you. But if you’re equipped with either a high-temperature dryer or a natural air/low-temp setup, it can make plenty of sense — and dollars — to harvest your sunflower fields while seed moisture is in the lower to mid-teens, rather than wait for it to dry down to around 10%. Here’s why:
• Reduced Exposure to Pests & Inclement Weather — The sooner mature seeds are harvested, the less you stand to lose to those late-season threats: blackbirds, windstorms, heavy rains and insect- or disease-induced lodging.
• Harvest Speed — The combine’s ground speed can be a little faster when harvesting seeds that are above 10 or 11% moisture. Shatter loss at the head will be lower than when combining at 10% or below.
• Less Shattering Overall — Along with minimizing seed shatter loss while combining, there will be less shatter loss from plant heads bumping against each other on windy autumn days prior to harvest.
• Ease of Drying — Drying damp seeds is cheaper and goes faster when ambient temperatures are still warm and the humidity low, as compared to late autumn drying conditions — particularly in the Northern Plains.
• Lower Foreign Matter — With today’s hybrids, sunflower plant heads may still be yellow, not brown, though the seeds are fully mature and dry enough to harvest. Slightly damp heads will not break up during threshing nearly as much as will those whose seed moisture is below 10%.
• Reduced Combine Fire Risk — Harvesting damper seeds with less foreign material greatly reduces static cling of fines, resulting in less material buildup on the combine and a lower risk of fires.
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