Graingrowers with short and patchy crops are encouraged to explore options to optimise paddock potential and prevent soil erosion during summer and autumn.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development's (DPIRD) Season 2023 webpages section on 'Harvesting short, patchy crops' has been updated, including tips for machinery modifications, harvesting and measuring grain losses.
With the 2023 grains harvest underway, there are reports of variable crops across the Wheatbelt - particularly in the northern and eastern districts.
DPIRD senior research scientist Glen Riethmuller said minor machinery modifications could help create a quick, clean cut to pick up cut material and help maximise yields.
"It all starts with the knives, so make sure they are sharp and the knife guards are adjusted so they cut on the bottom of the knife guard, sliding through short crops like scissors," Mr Reithmuller said.
"Attaching rigid black plastic to the finger tyne reel can be an easy, cost-effective option to help feed cut material into the front of the header to gather as much of the crop as possible.
"One option is to cut to size and drill 1.5 millimetre black high density polyethylene and zip tie it to the tyne reel so it just sweeps the top of the knife guard."
Another modification option is to install an air reel to blow short material clear of the knife, back into the table auger or belt.
"This helps with even feeding for maximum grain separation," Mr Riethmuller said.
"Commercial air reels, made from lightweight aluminium, can be fitted to the front of existing tyne reels for fronts of sizes nine metres to 15m.
"Another cost effective option is to attach a Vibra-mat on tin fronts to improve the evenness of feeding, which helps threshing and cleaning."
The use of extension fingers forward of the knife will also help catch cut material in conventional open front headers.
Mr Riethmuller said desiccating canola may be an option for growers with thin and patchy crops where uneven plants could create knife blockages.
"To even up the ripening, desiccate the crop when 70 to 80 per cent of randomly selected pods have seeds that have started to mature and change colour from green to brown or black," he said.
"If 100pc of the crop has changed colour, it is too late for desiccation or swathing."
Mr Riethmuller emphasised the importance of safety and urged growers to proactively maintain their focus during harvesting.
"Operating a harvester with the header comb close to the ground can be quite demanding, so it's crucial to take frequent breaks and consider other ways to help stay focused," he said.
Mr Riethmuller reminded growers they would be assuming the responsibility for any modifications made to the harvester if these alterations were not officially approved by the dealer or manufacturer.
The Season 2023 webpages also feature a page on 'Managing wind erosion in southern Western Australia', including advice to restrict grazing and vehicle movement to maintain at least 50pc ground cover.
For more information about harvesting short and patchy crops listen to the DPIRD's Grains Convo podcast accessed via the Grower Group Alliance website.
Stay updated with timely grains and livestock information and advice via the Season 2023 webpages, accessed via agric.wa.gov.au
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