It’s harvest time

Date posted: 19 December 2013

Finally!  The end of the crop cycle is near – farmers are holding their breath that the season finishes nicely and results in a good, plump, high quality barely grain that is suitable for malt production. 

Harvesting is not just a matter of collecting the grain and putting it in a silo.  It is a delicate process which includes the right mix of experience, science and technology.  

Farmers can only harvest when the grain is ripe and the weather conditions permit. Farmers will often do a moisture test on their grain prior to commencing their harvest just to be sure. If the grain is too wet harvest will be put on hold as wet samples can go mouldy in storage and the grain may sprout prematurely, affecting grain quality and performance.  

Harvester settings

The next step is to ensure the harvester settings are correct, so we can harvest as quickly and efficiently as possible while doing minimal damage to the grain. 

As the harvester moves through the crops, large combine knives cut and then direct the barley head into the harvester. Here, the ‘threshing process’ tumbles the head, removing the chaff from the grain. The grain is channelled into a storage bin, while the chaff is ‘spat out the back’.  

There are also a set of different sized screens in the harvester which help remove dirt, weed seeds and rocks.  If any settings are incorrect – the grain could be damaged or too much dirt / chaff could be collected. This would make for unhappy consumers!

It’s all about quality

Producing grain for the human consumption market requires growers to meet a strict set of quality guidelines (these have been set by a national body) and all farmers must meet these standards in order to sell their grain. Some of the traits include:   
  • having the right amount of protein (for example, beer production requires 9.5 – 11.5% grain protein)
  • producing plump bright grains with no staining or fungal disease 
  • low screenings, or low amounts of small, shrivelled grains 
  • no black point (a disease found in barley)
  • no damaged grains, as this affects their ability to germinate
  • no chaff, dirt, rocks or weed seeds in the sample
  • low levels of disease and weed contamination 
  • no chemical contamination. 

Activity

Check out our barley harvest at the Botanic Gardens in the video below!