Early harvest can salvage drought-stressed cereal crops

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New advice has been issued to cereal growers which offers a good chance of salvaging a drought-stressed crop in the face of this month’s hot, dry weather.

Many crops of spring barley, and even winter wheat, are already dying in the field, and will shed seed and lose yield if left to ripen.

Instead of harvesting at the usual time, growers have therefore been advised to make the most of the hot, dry conditions and cut their crops at the earliest opportunity. This could mean harvesting at grain moisture contents of up to 45%, at which point they can be preserved by crimping, instead of stored dry.

Using the preservative CrimpSafe 300, the grain should be rolled and treated on the day of harvest and stored in a clamp or plastic tube. These processes can be carried out on almost any farm and undertaken by a reputable contractor.

Crimping is carried out up to three weeks before traditional, dry harvest and captures far more feed value from the cereal crop. Crimp also offers proven livestock health and performance benefits in comparison with dry grain.

A further attraction to arable farmers and contractors is the spread of harvesting workload and the extra time created by the early harvest for autumn cultivations.

Michael Carpenter, technical director from feed preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd,

says: “It’s been a difficult year for farmers in so many respects, and the last thing they need is to lose part of their cereal crop in scorching weather conditions. This will happen on three fronts because the grain becomes shrivelled and loses yield; the crop will lose feed value as it dies off and more grain will be shed from the ear.

“Treating with CrimpSafe 300 – or CrimpSafe Hi-Dry for lower moisture grain – provides a way of harvesting right now at the optimal feed value, and making the most of good harvesting conditions,” he says.

“The alternative of desiccating unevenly ripened crops with Glyphosate is far less attractive as the price of the desiccant has almost doubled since last year,” he says. “Similarly, drying grain adds an unnecessary financial burden in the face of escalating fuel costs.

“There is also a massively growing interest amongst livestock producers for buying feeds direct from neighbouring farms, and cutting the cost of bought-in, bagged concentrates,” he adds. “Cereals can readily be traded from farm to farm either as a standing crop, at the time of harvest and crimping, or later in the year as crimp from the clamp.”

Farmers who wish to either buy or sell feeds in this way can trade them, free of charge, through a new trading platform accessible through the Kelvin Cave website (www.kelvincave.com). Called Home Grown Feeds Seek & Sell, the platform is open to those who wish to either buy or sell crops treated with Kelvin Cave Ltd products.

For advice about options for feed and forage preservation, please contact Kelvin Cave Ltd on 01458 252281 or Michael Carpenter on 07817 977701.  

Preserving moist grain from an early harvest 

  • Any moist grain (up to 45% moisture) can be preserved by crimping at the time of harvest 
  • A product from the CrimpSafe range (CrimpSafe 300 or CrimpSafe Hi-Dry) is required 
  • The preservative is applied through an applicator on a grain roller and the grain is ensiled 
  • Harvest is taken up to three weeks earlier than traditional cereal harvest 
  • Grain is preserved at its maximum nutrient value and digestibility 
  • The maximum dry matter yield is achieved per hectare due to lack of die-off and shedding 
  • Crimp is ensiled anaerobically in a plastic tube or clamp, readily created on most farms 
  • Significant savings can be made over the cost of drying and dry grain storage 
  • Crimp is independently proven to achieve outstanding rumen health and animal performance 
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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.