by Stu Taylor
As we are approaching the maize-harvesting time again, farmers should take note of these hand harvesting tips. A large, viable producer is probably best off using his own or a hired combine harvester. Remember, you want to get the maize crop off the field as quickly and efficiently as possible and into bags and storage to ensure against theft and any post-harvest damage. Once the optimum harvest moisture, of approximately 14 percent is reached, your crop is ready for harvest. At this point harvest losses and drying expenses are minimized.
Stooking: with the high winds prevailing in some areas of the country lately, some farmers have experienced lodging in their crops, in which case it may be necessary to stook. Stooking refers to standing the maize up into self-supporting lots, not too big, and once dry, tow your maize sheller around the land, stripping the cobs from the stalks and feeding them into the sheller. Most modern shellers are geared to handle sheathed maize. If not, the maize will have to be clean-reaped before being put into the sheller.
Bang-board method: This is an option to farmers who cannot access combine harvesters. Cobs are loaded (by throwing) directly into a tractor drawn trailer which is fitted by a bang board, high enough for thrown cobs not to be overthrown by the labour, to the other side. The trailer is driven down the lines of maize, with the labour reaping cobs and throwing them onto the trailer, from both sides, for onward delivery to a static sheller. Into bags from the stalk, clean-reaped: this entails labour moving down the lines reaping the cob, removing the sheath and placing it into the grain bag for later pickup, to be shelled.
Nesting: If your maize is not quite dry enough, nesting is fairly effective from a drying-off point-of-view, albeit involving double-handling. Labour moves along the lines, clean-reaping cobs and placing them in bags. Once there is a good build-up of sheaths and stalks (mashanga), nests are constructed about knee-high and with a diameter of 5 to 6 metres. ONE layer of cobs is laid on the nest and this dries off in a few days, with the mornings and evenings starting to get cooler as we go into autumn.
In conclusion, most farmers have their tried-and-tested methods which work for them, but at the end of the day, if you reap 4 tonnes of maize per hectare, ensure that 4 tonnes per hectare reaches your chosen market. If you reap eight or more tonnes a hectare, consider combining.
One last reminder- GLEAN after reaping; it’s amazing how much is left behind, no matter how jacked you think you are.