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Harvesting grains and cotton


Grain harvesting

Man has grown and harvested grains for thousands of years without the need for expensive equipment. Today however, the needs of billions of people mean that grains are largely grown on an industrial scale. But for the hobby or small farmer, grains can be a very nice little crop grown on as small a patch of ground as a quarter of an acre. Nonetheless, the basic practices of grain harvesting still apply if you want to make the most of your crop.

When to harvest

Your grains will be ready to harvest once they are dried. A simple test is that your fingernail should not be able to dent a grain kernel.

How to harvest

This can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be depending on the amount you have to harvest and the amount of money you have for equipment. By hand, you can snap the seed head off or cut it with a scythe or even scissors. If you have a larger acreage you might want to consider a mini combine machine or a used combine from the many farm sales that are around.

Threshing

Once you have harvested the grain heads you will need to separate the edible parts from the chaff. Again, this process can be as low tech or hi-tech as you want it to be. You can beat the grain heads on a tarpaulin with a chain, use a threshing box, or purchase any one of a variety of threshing machines that are available for small farms all the way up to used commercial equipment; once you get into the realms of serious machinery you will need an appropriate tractor.

Post harvest

All your hard work can be for nothing if you not follow some basic guidelines:

  • Keep your equipment clean
  • Ensure that you remove any infested grain before you store it
  • Use clean bags; replace damaged bags
  • Keep your stacks of bags at least three feet apart
  • Repair your pallets and check for protruding nails
  • Make sure your grain is dry before you store it
  • Take precautions against bird and rodent damage

Cotton Harvesting

Mature cotton plants, ready to harvest.The basic harvesting principles apply today for cotton as they did back in ancient times. You will need to wait until the cotton bolls start to crack open in sufficient numbers for you to go in there and pick the fluff and put it in sacks. It is a waiting and judgment game. If you go in too soon there may not be enough bolls to pick. Go in too late and insects may have damaged your crop. If you have a small acreage of cotton this can be a satisfying and enjoyable family experience. Commercial operations will usually extensively employ the use of chemicals and machinery.

Cotton pre-harvest

Large commercial cotton farms usually apply pre-harvest chemicals to the cotton crop; these are used to defoliate or desiccate the plant, and also to stimulate the cotton boll into maturing. The application of chemicals can achieve both efficiencies for mechanical harvesting and also help ensure the fiber is of the highest possible quality for maximum returns. Small and hobby farmers may not want to go down this route. However, it is tough not to do so as cotton is one of the most chemical dependent crops to grow where cheap labor is not an option. Nonetheless, according to the Organic Cotton Farm and Fiber Report for 2008 U.S. organic cotton acreage increased by nine percent from 8,510 acres in 2007 to 9,279 acres in 2008. Instead of applying chemicals, organic farmers often simply wait for a frost or stress the cotton with water inducement to kill or inhibit the plants before harvesting.

Machinery

There are basically two types of machine that are used to harvest cotton, the more common, spindle type picker and a brush stripper. The picker physically pulls the cotton from the boll whereas the stripper, as the name implies, slices the boll and many of the leaves away from the plant; the strippers tend to be used more in the southern U.S. where cotton plants tend to be smaller and more compact. After harvesting, you will also need a machine known as a cotton module builder, which forms the cotton into a compressed mound ready for the cotton gin. As with all farm machinery, new is expensive. However, for the small or hobby farmer there will always be a variety of good and sometimes not so good machinery for sale for the discerning buyer.


Crop Protectants

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CETCO Granular Bentonite 50lb
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Roundup QuikPro 6.8lb
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SpeedZone Broadleaf Herbicide for Turf 2.5gal
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Glyphomate 41 Weed & Grass Killer 1gal
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SpeedZone Broadleaf Herbicide for Turf 1gal
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$95.99
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Ornamec Over-The-Top Grass Herbicide 1qt
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Glyphomate 41 Weed & Grass Killer 2.5gal
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Trimec Classic Broadleaf Herbicide 2.5gal
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Chains

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Campbell Grade 30 Proof Coil Chain Zinc Plated 3/16 in
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Campbell Grade 30 Proof Coil Chain Zinc Plated 1/4 in
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Campbell 2/0 Straight Link Coil Chain Zinc Plated
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Campbell Grade 30 Proof Coil Chain Zinc Plated 3/8 in
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Tarps and Wraps

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Weathermaster Blue Poly Tarp
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Weathermaster Blue Poly Tarp 6'x8'
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Weathermaster Brown Poly Tarp
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Weathermaster 12oz Canvas Tarp
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