A Guide To Planting And Harvest High-Quality Grains
Grains are harvested seed grasses, such as rice, wheat, corn, and oats. They have been consumed for many years all around the world and are the major parts of many people’s diets. One of the main reasons they are so important to us is because they provide us with carbohydrates, which is the body’s main source of energy. They also act as fuel to your kidneys, heart muscles, and brain!
Grains are divided into two major groups: refined grains and whole grains. Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain kernel- the bran, endosperm, and germ. Refined grains are milled and have the germ and bran removed. Milling is done to give the refined grains a fine texture and increase shelf life.
Since whole grains contain all three kernel parts, they are rich in fiber and other nutrients like iron and vitamin B. Refined grains lose most of those natural nutrients in the milling process. However, most of those nutrients are added back to the grains, except fiber.
The 2015-2020 dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that people should have six one-ounce servings of grains daily. They also recommend that half of that should be whole grains. Due to their nutritional value, grains are increasingly being consumed in all places of the world.
Experts even predict that within the next 30 years, the demand for grains will increase by 70%. As that demand for grains increases, so does the amount and responsibility of growing, harvesting, and storing.
The process of growing, harvesting, and storing grains is complicated, and you must understand all the steps involved in every process.
How To Grow Grain
There are specific steps of growing grains, depending on the type of grain you want to grow. Some of the most common types of grains include:
Rice, wheat, barley, oats, sorghum, corn, millet, and rye are called ‘true cereal grains’ because they are members of the Poaceae family.
Those that do not belong to the Poaceae family, like quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth, are known as ‘pseudo-cereal grains.’ That is because they have the same texture, nutritional value, and appearance.
The most important thing you should consider if you want to get a good quality harvest is the quality of the seeds you are going to plant. If you did not source the seeds from a previous harvest, make sure that you buy them from a verified and reputable grain store. Ensure that they are also tested for pests, diseases, and weeds. Also, do a test to ensure that they are viable for germination before buying them.
Even though there are different methods to grow different types of grains, there are general requirements and steps that you can follow in growing any type of grain.
Choose a sunny spot
Grains are fairly resilient crops, but they require enough sunlight to grow and produce quality and healthy produce. Choose a piece of land that receives a lot of sunlight throughout the day – preferably one that does not receive shade from trees or nearby structures.
If you had previously planted anything on that land, you have to ensure that the previous crop does not negatively affect your grain as they grow. You also have to make sure that the previous crops did not have any pests and diseases because they can spread that to the new crop.
Test the soil
Soil testing is important for your growing crops. Call a professional to test the soil of the land you intend to plant your grains. Have it tested for acidity to ensure that it is the right pH, pests, and diseases and that it has the right drainage.
Have it tested for fertility, too, to determine if you will have to use any fertilizer or manure before planting.
Till the soil
After ascertaining that the soil is good for your grain, till it to at least 6 inches deep. That will not only help prepare the land for the seeds but also eliminate any weeds. If the soil needed a little fertility boost, it is time to mix it with a layer of compost.
Spread the seeds
The seeds should be evenly spread, and you can do that using a seed spreader.
Gently rake the soil on which you have spread your seeds. That will cover them and give them the warmth and moisture they need to grow.
Add a layer of straw
Straw is important because it keeps the seeds from being eaten by birds or being stepped on by anything or anyone walking on the soil. It also helps keep the moisture in the soil and boost soil fertility when it decomposes.
Water the area
Lightly water the seeds after laying the mulch on them. Be careful not to overwater it as that may cause them to rot before they germinate.
For any special instructions, read the package of the seeds or consult the provider of the seed. When you plant the grains, also determine how well they will grow and the quality of the harvest. Most of the grains are annual. Meaning that you will plant and harvest them within a year.
When, where, and what to plant?
Depending on the type of grain, you can plant them either in warm or cool seasons. Grains like rye, oats, and many types of wheat are best planted in fall, while millet, buckwheat, and other kinds of wheat are best planted during the warm months of spring.
Your location also dictates the best types of grains you can grow and get a good quality harvest. To know what kinds of grains are best for your location, consult a hardiness zone map.
Wheat is one of the oldest and most planted cereal in the world. It is also used for many things, including in making alcohol. With the right conditions and proper care, wheat is not that difficult to grow.
There are different types of wheat depending on when you plant and harvest them. Winter wheat is the one planted in fall. It grows until early winter, and in intense winter conditions, goes dormant.
When spring comes, the warmth stimulates new growth, which results in the formation of seed heads in around two months.
Spring wheat, on the other hand, is planted in spring. It ripens during mid to late summer. This type of wheat can withstand drier and hotter conditions than winter wheat.
Wheat germinates better in cooler soil of about 50º F (10º C). Under those soil temperatures, your wheat will germinate and sprout in around seven days.
By the next 2-3 weeks, there will be a tremendous increase in the length of the wheat, and the size will be enough to impress the Hee Haw cast. Mature wheat grows to a height of 3-4 feet.
Spring wheat is usually ready for harvest around four months after planting. Winter wheat, on the other hand, may take about eight months until it is ready for harvesting because of its time spent dormant during the winter.
To plant your wheat, you have to choose the variety of seeds you want (whether spring or winter).
Prepare and till the soil
You have to ensure that your soil is in the right condition to grow the wheat. Have it tested to ensure it meets the requirements. It should be loose, well-fertilized, and well-drained, with a pH of 6.4.
Till the soil up to a depth of 15 cm (6 inches), and if it is not fertile enough, add a layer of compost.
Plant the seeds
The seeds should be evenly distributed on the soil, and you can do that using a crank seeder or by hand. Whichever method you prefer, you should ensure that you space them evenly. There are different methods you can use to evenly spread them.
If you are planting in rows, the rows should have a gap of 3 inches, with each seed 3 inches apart. You can also plant them per square foot, with 25-30 seeds for every square foot. The seeds should be half an inch to an inch deep into the soil.
Ensure that you plant them in a place where there will be maximum sunlight.
Cover the soil and seeds with a layer of mulch to preserve the moisture and prevent the growth of weeds. Ensure to keep the soil moist. Winter wheat does not need a lot of moisture, but spring wheat may need water every week.
However, ensure not to overwater because you may cause the growing crops to rot. To avoid overwatering, you may water whenever you notice the top inch of soil is dry.
Germination should happen in a week, and when it does, you should keep the crop stress-free by ensuring that the land is well watered and has no weeds. After a few months, the wheat will start to tiller.
Tillering is the development of more stems from the main wheat stem. Each wheat plant has the capability of producing 3-7 tillers. To increase your wheat produce, you have to ensure that your wheat tillers maximally using some methods;
- Before planting, ensure that you amend the soil with compost or fertilizer.
- Ensure that the soil is compacted.
- Don’t stress the wheat plant by leaving them to dry.
- Don’t plant your seeds too deep.
The wheat will then start to produce wheat heads and start to dry out. To determine if it is ready for harvesting, put a few grains from the heads in your mouth and chew them. If they are hard and not chewy, they are ready to harvest.
How To Harvest Grain
Knowing when and how to harvest your grain is also important in ensuring the harvest is of high quality. You know your grain is ready to harvest when it is fully dried. The tops will be fully golden, and there will be no green on the plant. Also, the heads will be slightly bent.
Harvesting grain is done by cutting off the seed heads from the rest of the plant. That can be done using pruners, a scythe, or a sickle if you are harvesting in a small space. For large-scale harvesting, it is done using machines like a combine harvester.
After cutting the heads, you need to dry them to a minimum of 20% for around ten days further. That is done by hanging them upside down outside in an area protected from the rain. You can have a paper bag around the harvest to keep pests away and to hold any seeds that may fall off.
The next step is to thresh your wheat to remove the seeds from the seed head and chaff. Chaff is the light skin that protects the grain. You can do that by bashing it around. You now need to winnow the grain to remove the chaff.
You can winnow by bouncing it off a sack or tray into the air and let the wind blow away the light chaff. You can also place the grain in front of artificial moving air like the one from a fan.
Storing The Grain
After you are done harvesting grain and leaning it, it is time to store it. You must choose a storage system with a temperature that is easily regulated. It also has to be moisture and weather resistant.
One of the most common ways to store your grain is using grain bins. You have to ensure that you get the right bin for your grain. Also, if you are storing it for the long-term, ensure the grain is drier than that being stored for the short term.
The ideal moisture level is less than 15%. Ensure that you store your grain in a room that is free of moisture and has free-flowing air to prevent the growth of mold. If you want to keep off pests, you can heat your grain on a baking sheet at 130-140º F for around 30-60 minutes.
You might also consider using a dehydrator at the same temperatures to keep the pests away. You can also use other products like grain cushion boxes and dust suppression hopers to make the storage experience better.
After storing, ensure to check your grain constantly to ensure that the room and storing mechanisms are still in perfect conditions. Also, make any necessary adjustments and make sure that one side of the storage containers does not sit against the wall for long.