How to Harvest Sorghum

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Sorghum is a variety of grass used for grain, fiber and fodder. According to the U.S. Grains Council, sorghum is the third most important cereal crop grown in the U.S. In many parts of the world, sorghum is used to make porridge, unleavened bread and malted beverages. It is a versatile grain product.

Preharvesting

  • Check the grain moisture content of your sorghum. You will want to harvest the grain early, beginning when the moisture content is at 17 to 20 percent.

  • Monitor the weather conditions. Grain sorghum requires high temperatures and low air humidity. If low air humidity is expected near term, it might be better to wait and let the grain dry further. Cut a sample and then wait 2 days and cut another sample. If the grain appears to be drying, delay the harvest and let the weather work for you.

  • Apply a preharvest desiccant to dry leaves and weeds a week before harvest. This will make combining easier.

  • Make provisions for drying the grain after harvest.

Gathering

  • Attach guard extensions to the grain header. Attach extensions to every other guard in standing grain sorghum. Guard extensions will provide support and reduce gathering loss.

  • Cut just below the heads to reduce stem and leaf content. The thresher needs to separate the grain well without excess foliage entering the combine.

  • Set the pickup finger speed on the reel with forward speed. The pickup finger speed needs to be 15 to 25 percent faster than the forward speed to minimize gather loss.

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Threshing

  • Thresh the sorghum vigorously to remove mature kernels from the heads.

  • Use a combine with a threshing rotor or rasp-bar cylinder. These will not pulverize the leaves and stems.

  • Review your operator’s manual to fine-tune your thresher speed based on grain moisture. Dry grain may require a slower thresher speed. Adjust the speed based on the moisture content in each area of your field.

  • Monitor grain loss regularly. Use a narrow sieve opening that allows grain to pass but separates out the residue.

  • Use the grain loss monitor to adjust the threshing and separation settings within each field.

  • Maintain your field loss at 5 percent or less. Examine field loss regularly; 21 small kernels or 16 large kernels per square foot equals one bushel per acre.

  • Pass the grain through a precleaner before drying or unloading it into a bin.

References

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