Harvesting small grains (or grain crops) refers to the harvesting of cereal crops such as wheat, barley or oats which are grown in small quantities for food and other purposes. These cereals have a high protein content and are often used as animal feeds. They produce large amounts of edible seeds which can be used for feeding livestock. However, they require special handling procedures when harvested because their kernels contain very little water, making them difficult to handle without damaging them.
The harvest of these crops involves several steps. First, the crop must be plucked from its plant canopy where it grows. Next, the crop is cut into smaller pieces called “seed”.
Finally, the seed is sown onto a suitable soil surface and covered with another layer of soil to protect it from weather conditions. The process usually takes place during spring and summer months when temperatures are warm enough for germination but not too hot or cold so that damage to the seeds does not occur.
It is important to note that there are many different types of grain crops and each requires a slightly different method of harvesting. For example, rye, corn and oats all require harvesting in the fall. Other varieties may need to be harvested in the spring or even later in the year depending upon how much moisture they have lost through evaporation.
Harvesting small grains can be a very rewarding experience. Because the crop represents a very small portion of your overall farming activities, it is not usually necessary to hire outside help. This gives a hobby farmer or small-scale farmer who harvests his own crop the chance to enjoy the satisfaction of reaping the fruits of his labor.
Harvesting small grains is a simple process that can be accomplished without the use of any expensive equipment. Because each crop grows at a different rate, you may need to adjust the time you harvest it depending upon how ready it is. In some cases, you do not want to cut a crop at all because it will not be ripe enough and will not survive being transplanted or sown into the soil.
How And When To Harvest Grain Crops
Harvesting small grains is a traditional process that can be done on a small or large scale. Small-scale farmers benefit from harvesting their crops because it provides them with nutritious food for their families and helps to alleviate food costs. Large-scale farmers also harvest their crops, but for different reasons.
Instead of harvesting the crops for their own food supply, they do it so they can sell the excess crop as a cash crop.
Harvesting small grains is an ongoing process that begins as soon as the crop is knee-high. Farmers inspect their crops on a regular basis in order to determine if it is ready to be harvested. The main factors involved are the moisture content of the grain, its color and its overall appearance.
In general, whole oats or wheat will not be ready for harvesting until all of its’ seeds have turned from white to a golden yellow. Hard red winter wheat can be harvested when the heads turn brown and the straw is brittle. Soft wheat is ready to be cut when the grain head turns a light brown. Barley is ready for harvest when the seedheads are turning yellow and the straw has a glass-like appearance. Grain with a high moisture content will not survive being sown so it is very important not to harvest crops too early.
Sources & references used in this article:
Ensiling characteristics of whole-crop small grains harvested at milk and dough stages by WG Bergen, TM Byrem, AL Grant – Journal of Animal Science, 1991 – academic.oup.com
Double‐cropping soybean after harvesting small grains as forage in the north central USA by PJ LeMahieu, MA Brinkman – Journal of Production Agriculture, 1990 – Wiley Online Library
Small grains for forage by ZR Helsel, JW Thomas – Journal of Dairy Science, 1987 – Elsevier
Harvesting maximum value from small grain cereal forages by G Fohner – Proceedings of the 32nd California alfalfa and forage …, 2002 – alfalfa.ucdavis.edu
Small grains for fall and spring forage by TS Maloney, ES Oplinger… – Journal of production …, 1999 – Wiley Online Library
Opportunities and roadblocks in utilizing forages and small grains for liquid fuels by G Sarath, RB Mitchell, SE Sattler, D Funnell… – Journal of industrial …, 2008 – Springer