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I’m a day late in bringing you the update from Month 9 — harvest! We officially started cutting wheat on June 22. This year’s start was a little later than usual. We generally start cutting by Father’s Day. However, the wheat crop took a little longer to dry down because of the high humidity. We checked fields a couple days earlier, but the kernels were still soft — you could make a dent with your fingernail.

After several days of blistering temperatures and winds, the wheat was ripe. V. says you can hear when it’s ready. It rustles as it waves in the wind.

Ripe Winter Wheat June 2013

 

I enjoyed some time riding in the combine with V. (A combine is the machinery that cuts the wheat in the field and separates the kernel from the rest of the plant.) Mostly, I’m on the “support crew,” helping with meals, supply runs, chores, etc. We’re lucky in that we only have to haul wheat about three miles to the nearest grain elevator (a facility that stores grain in large steel or concrete bins).

The condition of the crop? We saw the toll from the late freezes. The stems in some areas were weakened and that wheat laid over. The combines were able to pick up most of it. Besides that, the yields looked good. We’re surprised and pleased after the rollercoaster growing season.

V. sums it up with this statement: “I love wheat harvest and I hate wheat harvest.” I know he wouldn’t have it any other way. Me either.

Here are a few scenes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPb4QM4JuJ8

Thanks for following our crop this year. The 2014 crop starts now.

There have been a lot of changes since we took a first look inside the wheat plant stem on May 3.

The plant now reaches about 34 inches from the ground to its tip. The seed head is fully developed, but the kernels are still soft. The kernels are now “filling” or reaching maturity. Rain is still important because it influences the weight of each kernel.

We get paid on the number of bushels. Bushels are figured by weight and the average bushel of wheat weighs 60 pounds. The cash price for wheat this morning is $7.30 per bushel. Our yield will be the true indicator of the effect of the late freezes.

You can see how the plants are losing their green color as they complete the life cycle. The kernels will harden and the plant will turn golden as it dries down, or essentially, dies.

We begin harvest when we’re sure that the seed kernel is dry enough. Kernels that are too wet would eventually spoil. So, the grain companies that receive the wheat have set limits on moisture content.

Take a look at month 8. Next month: Harvest!

Winter Wheat, May 2013

Winter Wheat, May 2013

Winter Wheat Field, May 2013

Winter Wheat Field, May 2013

 

Good news, we think. The temperatures didn’t go below 29 degrees last night. That’s a little buffer above the 24-degree mark, where K-State Extension says the real damage occurs at this stage. Plus, the freezing rain was more moisture.

The frozen wheat of yesterday looks a more cheery version of crystallized this morning. Here’s a view from across the road.

Winter Wheat Field, April 2013

Winter Wheat Field, April 2013

Winter Wheat, April 2013

Winter Wheat, April 2013

 

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.

wheat2

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

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

My 11-year-old farmer estimated we received a 1/2 inch of rain about a week ago, based on the puddle in the driveway. He was almost right on the money. It wasn’t much, but it was good to know that moisture can fall from these Kansas skies.V. and I walked a field today. Maybe it was the sunshine influencing our outlook, but his general consensus: “Not as bad as I feared.”

Take a look at month 4.

Winter Wheat, January 2013

Winter Wheat, January 2013

Winter Wheat Field, January 2013

Winter Wheat Field, January 2013

 

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