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A Seasonal Guide to Grain Farming

Growing and harvesting grains is a year-round task. If you cultivate your own crops, you know that it takes careful planning and preparation to ensure thriving grains. Seasonal shifts bring many changes that can affect your grain’s growth rate and quality, including temperature, humidity, water availability, precipitation, agricultural pest migration and frost. These environmental factors play a significant role in your grain yield. 

Seasonal planning is critical for staying ahead of weather-related fluctuations that can harm your crops. Your seasonal grain plan may include strategies for tillage, fertilization and pest management. Use this comprehensive guide to help you learn how to successfully grow healthy crops in a given season.

Spring — Preparing for Planting 

Spring marks the end of the frosty winter and the beginning of the growing season. Here are some top tips for growing high-quality grain in spring.

Soil Preparation

Because spring tends to bring excess moisture from rain and thawing ice, it’s important to make sure the soil is dry before working. Otherwise, you may risk soil compaction, nutrient loss or root impediment. You can test your soil moisture levels by hand or get a more comprehensive picture of the health of your soil with a spring soil test, typically after the incorporation of cover crops. 

A routine soil test will help you determine the soil’s condition and nutrient levels. Your soil changes constantly throughout the year, especially as new organisms become active in different seasons. Performing a soil test gives you a better idea of what seed and fertilizer strategy to use to continue growing healthy grain. 

Planting Schedules

Plant timing is critical when it comes to farming all types of crops. If you’re preparing to plant spring grain, keep in mind that the risk is greatest during late March and early April. However, the exact timing depends on your:

  • Location
  • Climate
  • Winterhardiness
  • Season of production
  • Moisture levels

For example, certain types of grain like spring wheat, barley and oats can fare well as long as the soil reaches temperatures of at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As a rule of thumb, you can usually plant spring grain as early as ground conditions allow, which tends to fall somewhere between mid-April and early May. 

Summer — Growth and Maintenance

Many grains, like wheat, are harvested during summer and until early fall. Check out these farming, gardening and cultivation techniques for summer grains. 

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation plays a pivotal role in the health and quality of your grain. By growing different types of crops sequentially in the same field, you can enhance the organic matter in your soil and potentially benefit from better yields. This farm management process can help reduce disease and insect infestations. It can also improve soil structure, moisture and fertility. 

For example, oats and spring barley rapidly grow in later summer, so you might plant red clover or double-crop soybeans to increase feed value. Beans, alfalfa and corn are also ideal crops to rotate with grains.

Weather Patterns

Severe or inclement weather conditions can wreak havoc on your growth and harvesting process. Most grains thrive in warm, sunny weather, including corn, barley, rice and sorghum. However, it’s important to continuously monitor the weather as extreme heat can affect yields by causing crops to ripen too quickly. 

As part of your irrigation and water management plan, keep your crops hydrated during the hottest parts of the day by watering them in the early morning or late evening. This can help reduce water loss through evaporation. If water efficiency is a priority for your farm, consider drip irrigation systems or micro-sprinkler irrigation. 

Fall — Harvesting Techniques

Fall is an optimal time for harvesting grains planted in spring. The cool, dry weather allows the crops to dry naturally before harvesting. 

Fall — Harvesting Techniques

Optimal Harvest Time

The fall harvesting time for grains can vary based on the type of grain and your farm’s location. Generally, the fall harvest can range from late August to early October. An easy way to determine if your grain is ready for harvesting is to bite down or press your fingernail into the seed. It should be hard, crunchy and brittle. 

If the kernels feel squishy or release a milky liquid, they’re not ready yet. Grains should be mostly golden yellow or straw-colored with minimal to no visible green. Ripe or mature grain will also lean forward due to the weight of the seed head. 

Harvesting Methods

Grain can be harvested by hand using tools like scythes and pruners. This method may be ideal for growing grains on a small scale. Harvesting with a combine harvester machine, however, can save significant time and labor. A combine harvester can perform several tasks at once, including reaping, threshing and winnowing. Using mechanical equipment may suit your grain farming strategy if you have much more land to cover when harvesting.

Here are some tips for efficient grain harvesting:

  • Harvest in dry weather to prevent crop damage
  • Harvest in mid-morning after the dew has cleared
  • Leave several inches of grain or wheat stubble left to protect the soil
  • Adjust the settings on the combine to maximize grain yields

Winter — Post-Harvest and Planning

After the busy harvest season, it’s time to store your grain for the winter and plan ahead for the spring season. 

Storage Techniques

Grain handling and conditioning is an important step before storage. High-quality grain handling products and equipment can minimize grain damage and cross-contamination. For example, the LCDM DBAR Cushion Box features a self-cleaning inner cone and an innovative design that reduces grain damage by over 50%.

To protect your grain from mold and pests, it’s important to store it in an air-tight container with tight closures. Storing your grain at the right temperature is also critical for keeping it fresh for longer. Extreme cold can freeze your grain and extreme heat can create favorable conditions for insect activity. Dry grain should be stored between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter 

Preparing for the Next Season

A key part of successful grain farming is reflecting on your seasonal strategies to determine if you need to make adjustments. Evaluate your growing, harvesting and storing processes if you encounter unwanted issues like excessive grain damage or handling inefficiencies.

The winter season is also ideal for planning for spring planting. During this time, you can decide what type of seeds and grains to grow. You can also take this opportunity to upgrade your grain handling equipment for a more productive and profitable upcoming year.

Protect Your Crops Year-Round With Grain Handling Equipment From LCDM

Protect Your Crops Year-Round With Grain Handling Equipment From LCDM

Some of the best practices for growing and harvesting grain in different seasons include crop rotation, adhering to a planting schedule and proper storage techniques. Implementing these seasonal planning standards can help protect your grain from contaminants like mold and pests for optimal quality. At LCDM, we offer grain handling products and equipment to make grain farming more efficient. 

We recognize that the tools you use for handling and controlling the flow of grain can influence its condition, which is why we designed cost-effective and flexible equipment for many applications. Our grain slide gates, valves and cushion boxes are some of our signature products that can help you achieve the highest quality grain possible. Contact us today to learn more about the value of our grain-handling products.

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