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Harvesting Tips


Photo of a CombineWelcome to the harvest section of the website.  The purpose of this section is to provide tips to assist producers in the harvest and marketing of the current years pulse crop.

As harvest approaches, there are several techniques that can help improve the quality of your product. The following article offers tips in determining grade quality factors.

Pulse Crop Harvest Tips

Buyers for peas, lentils and chickpeas are very demanding on quality.  Proper harvesting can make the difference between getting a premium price as food grade or having them rejected.  Taking the time at harvest to watch for the following grade quality factors can make a difference in getting a premium price.

Yellow and Green Food Peas


Bleach in green peas is caused by moisture and sunlight at maturity.  Green peas should be harvested at high moisture (18%) and air dried to 13-15% (Depending what the processors wants the product at) for storage.  Swathing or desiccation is recommended for speeding up harvest.
Bleach in yellow peas is due to green (immature) seed at harvest.  This can be avoided by harvesting when the seed has turned color or harvesting areas of the field as they mature.


Several types of damage can result in not meeting food grade standards, which include:
Chalkspot:  This can be caused by lygus bugs stinging the immature seed or hail damage.  Look for white spots on the seed—normally if its insect damage it should be most pronounced on the first outside rounds.  Check your grain tank regularly and avoid mixing these damaged seeds with the rest of the crop.
Hail damage:  Hail on immature seed can cause a lot of staining and spots on the seeds.  If you know you had hail on all or part of the field, keep it separate.
Staining:  Staining or dirt tag is the result of weeds or moisture and dirt clinging to the seed.  Avoid harvesting through wet weed patches or when there is dew on the plants.
Disease:  Ascochyta and mildew can also discolor the seed. 

Mechanical Damage

Fragile seeds of peas can easily be damaged if the combine and augers are not set or operated properly.  The biggest problem in splitting or breaking the seed coats is harvesting too dry.  Peas should be harvested at high moisture (18 %) and air dried.
Combine settings:  Slow cylinder speeds and concave openings large enough to allow the large seeded peas through is most often the method of preventing mechanical damage.
Seed loss is most often associated with seed going over the straw walkers.  This loss can be minimized by setting the concave closer in the front than in the back to try to dislodge the seed from the straw.  If the straw is too tough, it might help to increase cylinder speed.  If the loss is over 2-3 bus./ac. (8-12 seeds/sq.ft.) you might have to wait until the straw is dryer.
Maximize the wind speed for peas to remove as much inert material as possible.  Peas are very hard to blow over.


Lentils are very indeterminate in growth and normally require swathing or desiccation before harvest.  If you are swathing lentils for the first time, it would be very helpful to talk to an experienced grower on how to set up your swather, as this can be an easy or a very frustrating experience.  Harvesting lentils at 16% moisture is important to keep the mechanical damage to a minimum, then air dry to 14%.
Color is very important in green lentils, as with peas, be ready to harvest quickly and avoid immature areas of the field.  


Again, like in peas, monitor your grain tank for any change in quality.  Chalkspot, weed or dirt staining, disease, frost damage and hail are the most common causes of low quality.


Like lentils, chickpeas are very indeterminate in maturity like lentils.  They are also very late maturing so most of the time frost kills the plants.  Straight cutting is the most common method of harvesting if the plants are standing.  Kabuli (large seeded) chickpeas are the hardest to get quality.  These are sold in individual lots and are subject not only to grade but to buyer preferences.  Quality could mean the difference of over one hundred dollars per acre.  Not only do buyers want bright white seeds, but they also pay according to size.  While you can’t control the seed size at harvest you can improve the chances for bright white seeds by monitoring your grain tank often.


Avoid harvesting when the plants are wet with dew to avoid dirt tagging or if staining is occurring due to wet weeds.  Keep all changes in sizes and quality separate.  
Green seed in samples is to be avoided or reduced by harvesting only the areas of the field that are fully matured.  This also applies to diseased areas, drowned out areas or on soil types that could reduce seed size or quality. 

Mechanical Damage

Because of the size of the seed of the Kabuli types, it’s very important to reduce mechanical damage.  Harvesting at 18% moisture and air drying to 15% will help reduce chipping and splitting.  Make sure your concave has openings large enough to accommodate the seed size.  Reduce cylinder speeds to the slowest operating speed without slugging the cylinder.  Keep augers running full and slow when handling.
Like peas, you can use high wind speeds to keep the inert material to a minimum.

General Comments

The key is quality at every step of the production of these crops.  Take the time at harvest to observe any change in quality in your fields.  Plan on some surprises and have a plan to keep different grades separated.  Your reputation with the buyers is at stake; discuss these quality issues with him.   Taking samples of each truckload at harvest will help determine your marketing strategy.  Once harvest is complete, don’t forget to monitor the moisture or temperature in the bins.   
Following are a few general comments from experienced producers:

Storing Pulse Crops

Once harvest is done don’t forget to monitor the moisture or temperature in the bins.    Peas and lentils can heat up quickly.  A bad bin bottom or top mixed in with good product can cost both the processor and you a lot of headaches and money.  One recommendation from an experienced pea producer was to remove the top 1/4 to 1/3 from each bin when marketing your pulse crops.  Instead of emptying one bin take the top product off in each bin before winter.  This has helped prevent the molding in bins.  Another bin storage problem could be grasshoppers.  If you are experiencing high amounts of grasshoppers you will want to pay close attention to your bin in order to prevent the product from rotting.

Unloading Pulse Crops

When unloading peas from your combine you will want to slow the combine down to prevent cracking.  When the peas are falling from the combine auger to the truck bed make sure that the peas fall freely without hitting any objects on the way down to the truck box.

Augering Pulse Crops

It is recommended by a fellow pea producer that you want to use a large auger with lots of power.  The auger speed should be slow.
The main thing to remember when handling pulse crops is to handle them as little as possible and as careful as possible.  Have a good harvest!