Solutions In A Wet Harvest
The traditional British summer has brought the nightmare scenario of wet, flat crops with sprouted grain and falling quality. 9 of the last 13 years have had a wet August so we probably shouldn’t be surprised but the impact this year has been particularly hard in the west of the country and in Wales, more traditionally associated with mixed farms dependant on contractors and lacking specialist equipment. Loss of milling specifications due to Hagberg or bushel weight loss are the normal problem but this year there has been earlier than normal ear sprouting- grains germinating whilst still in the ear.
For those with access to a drier the solution is to use expensive oil and gas to dry grain down to acceptable levels. Running sprouted grains through a batch drier or cleaner will also help clear some of the small grains and sprouts giving benefits to bushel weights. This can be blended with better earlier harvested grains to get to the merchant’s specification if possible. Some Central and commercial grain stores are organically certified and can dry and store, but at a cost. Grains are at more risk of mycotoxins during wet harvests and any grain must be properly managed when in store, aerating is particularly important.
Mixed farmers growing for their own use have a number of other options available to them. One of which has been in use for years and is approved for organic use. Propionic acid is a naturally occurring organic acid sold commercially as Propcorn. It can be used on whole, crimped and rolled grain and pulses up to 25% moisture and prevents moulds and deterioration. Application rate is dependent on moisture content and storage time. Application is best with a specialised applicator feeding into an auger and the grains can then be stored normally. Milling is easier because the moister grain is rolled rather than shattered, producing less dust and can result in less acidosis, higher feed intakes and higher production. One problem with Propcorn is that it destroys vitamin E and this must be addressed with mineral balancing of the feed produced.