A spring threat has become a reality. Our wheat crop is coated with ice. This is not good news for a plant that is out of dormancy and growing. The crop at this stage of growth is referred to as jointing. This chart from the University of Illinois Extension shows the different stages.


The smart folks at our own state Extension Service  (Kansas State University) describe the effect of freezing temperatures at the jointing stage:

  • Approximate injurious temperature for two hours: -24 F.
  • Primary Symptoms: Death of growing point; leaf yellowing or burning; lesions, splitting, or bending of lower stem; odor
  • Yield effect: Moderate to severe

We do expect some reduction in yield, but it’s hard to predict much beyond that. Modern seed varieties are nothing short of amazing in their ability to survive extremes. The same could be said for the farmer and his crops.

For now, we’ll keep one eye on the fields and another on the temperature gauge.

Winter Wheat, April 2013

Winter Wheat, April 2013

Winter Wheat Field, April 2013

Winter Wheat Field, April 2013

Gloomy skies may not be good for the soul, but they are good for our wheat fields right now. The wheat plants have broken their winter dormancy. We want the growth now to be steady, not speeded up by unseasonably warm temperatures.

We’re still worried about the drought, so we were glad for yesterday’s mist and snow flurries. Today, a surprise snow storm blew in. It’s hard to tell how much snow we received because of the drifting. Maybe about three inches or so. This latest moisture will definitely help, especially since the wheat is now growing.

We’re still way behind in terms of moisture, however. The National Drought Mitigation Center says Kansas needs 12 to 16 inches of water to fully recover from the drought. This state has crazy weather, so hope that doesn’t come all at once!

Take a look at month 6:

Winter Wheat Field, March 2013

Winter Wheat Field, March 2013

Winter Wheat, March 2013

Winter Wheat, March 2013

Calling All Eaters

March 19, 2013

Happy Ag Day everyone!

I thought I’d share the presentation I did for TEDxICT last year, “Calling All Eaters.” Hope it provides some insights into ways we all can connect with agriculture.

As the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, “Every family needs a farmer.” I’d like to add that every farmer needs a family. Together, we feed the world.

Also, here’s a link to the slides in the talk, http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=7341369&trk=tab_pro.

Thanks for reading and watching.

Snow. Lots of it. That’s what is blanketing our wheat as we close out month five. We had two blizzards in five days with about 18 inches of total snowfall. 18 inches of snow doesn’t translate into 18 inches of water. However, even on the conservative side, we received several inches of desperately needed moisture.

What’s even better is that the temperatures have stayed slightly above freezing during the day. That has allowed the snow to melt slowly and seep into the ground and not just run off into the ditches.

The timing was great as the wheat will come out of dormancy within the next few weeks.

It’s nice to feel a little optimism about the crop. And, as my 11-year-old farmer says,”Kansas has never looked this clean.”

Take a look at month five.

Kansas Winter Wheat Field, February 2013

Kansas Winter Wheat Field, February 2013

The tiniest bit of moisture fell a few days ago, when light snow blew in courtesy of Storm Draco. A couple of inches would have been nice. However, it was encouraging to think that maybe winter will bring some drought relief.

Here’s what Kansas State University crop production specialist Jim Shroyer has to say about current conditions:

“A combination of very low temperatures, dry soils and poorly developed wheat has created concern about the current wheat crop’s survival.”

He gives a great overview of what can help or hinder its survival, including the root system, soil temperature near the crown of the plant, and whether the crown is protected enough by the soil:


We’ve worried about yields before, but never about the crop surviving. V. had intended this field for winter grazing for our small cow/calf herd, but its condition is too poor. There is always some yield loss when calves graze early in the year on wheat, but he doesn’t want to add any more stress to this fragile crop. The best thing for the wheat now would be more snow to insulate and protect it from harsh winds.

Winter wheat, December 2012

Winter wheat, December 2012

Winter wheat field, December 2012

Winter wheat field, December 2012

Finally, rain last night. We received just short of 1/2 inch, but we’ll take it. We received a tiny shower after wheat planting, but that’s been it for moisture. To make things even drier, we’ve had record high temperatures this fall, close to 90 degrees, and strong winds. In fact, some days, it’s been hard to walk across open fields.

Still, my farmer says he’s pleased with the amount of tillers coming out of each plant. Those tillers will eventually produce grain heads. He’s hoping that the wheat will now use the moisture to put down deeper roots. The plants are not yet dormant because we haven’t had consistently cool temperatures. However, it will go dormant soon.

Take a look at month 2, on a sunny Sunday afternoon:

Kansas Winter Wheat, Nov. 11, 2012

Kansas Winter Wheat Field, Nov. 12, 2012


Our American Alpine buck, JellyFish

We are a third generation wheat farm. The changes in technology have been staggering since Grandpa’s day. And yet, each year starts the same, with seeds in dirt.

Kansas Winter Wheat, Oct. 12, 2012

These winter wheat seedlings are about 16 days old. How does my farmer describe conditions? “Dry.” There was enough surface moisture for plants to sprout, but subsoil moisture is very poor.

The good news is that the seeds have sprouted. The bad news is that even though harvest won’t happen until next June, the seeds are determining yield now based on soil conditions. We need rain, soon.

Rain will also help the wheat plants establish a good stand to protect against harsh winter conditions. Snow is good, but strong winds can damage the plants. Also, this field, which was planted a little earlier than other fields, will be used as winter pasture for cattle. A plant with a good root structure can stay in place when the cattle munch.

I thought you might like to see the progression of our wheat crop, so this field and I will check in with you next month.

Kansas Winter Wheat Field, Oct. 12, 2012

Competitive Bottle-Feeding

August 20, 2012

Here are Willie and King, two of our bottle babies from last spring. Willie is a Hampshire/Suffolk lamb and King is an Alpine buck (dairy goat). We fed them twice a day for about 12 weeks, 8 ounces each time. Check out their wiggling tails to see how much they enjoy their bottles — and how much they love to race to the finish.

King wins, both on speed and style. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdz9yCj1lkY&feature=youtu.be

Willie & King

%d bloggers like this: