Moisture Chart Helps Hemp Growers Time Harvest

Moisture Chart Helps Hemp Growers Time Harvest
Posted by FoM on September 14, 1999 at 09:34:17 PT
By Sean Pratt
Source: Western Producer
Hemp growers now have their own moisture chart. Consolidated Growers and Processors, Prairie Hemp and Manitoba Agriculture contracted the Canadian Grain Commission to create the much needed harvest tool. 
"Guys were trying to modify the buckwheat chart or the canola chart to see if they could get close approximations that way. And they weren't really having a whole lot of success," said Manitoba Agriculture's Bruce Brolley. There was only one crop year of data available to produce the chart because 1998-99 was the first year hemp was commercially grown on the Prairies, so there may be some glitches with the chart. But it's much better than the alternative, said Brolley. "This is pretty much a critical harvest tool for these guys." Based on the Manitoba experience last year, hemp growers should direct combine the crop when seed moisture is between 25 and 30 percent, said Brolley, a new-crop specialist. One of the headaches in harvesting hemp is dealing with the amount of fibre generated by a crop that can reach 3.5 metres. The dryer the crop, the bigger the headache. "Until we can learn to manage the height of the hemp plant, we're going to have these hassles of putting all these extra fibres through the combine." The fibre becomes a serious fire hazard when it wraps around combine belts and bearings. So farmers are forced to move into the hemp fields sooner than they would like, when the crop is still green. The wet seed should be aerated within 24 hours of combining, he said. How it is dried is not as important as when it is dried. "If hemp seed is wet it will spoil quickly, so it really is essential you get it on air." Brolley said the seed can be safely stored at a moisture level between nine and 10 percent, which should be easier to determine with the new moisture charts available through Manitoba Agriculture, the Canadian Grain Commission or the Manitoba Industrial Hemp Association. Farmers who have harvested tough flax will have a fair idea of what harvesting hemp is like, said Brolley. He emphasized hemp growers should take it slow and cautious. "We really don't want to lose any combines," said Brolley, who has already been approached by leasing companies anxious about the the potential threat to their machinery. Combining tips• Raise the cutter bar as high as possible to minimize the amount of material the combine has to process. • Lower the cylinder speed to about 350 r.p.m. and have the concave about half open. • Use plenty of air to remove leaves, chaff and small or empty seeds. • Remove straw chopper and blades. • Cover exposed shafts with shields. • Go slow. Expect to combine 1.5 to five acres per hour. • Get off the combine and inspect for fibre wrapping every 45 minutes. September 9, 1999 The Western Producer
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