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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kansas Wheat Planting

 October in Kansas means it is time to plant wheat.  Before winter?  You might ask.  A farmers response would be yes!  In Kansas, we plant what is called Hard Red Winter Wheat.  It will start to grow this fall and when it gets cold it will go “dormant.”  If it gets REALLY cold, we hope that there is snow on top of the wheat to protect it from extreme temperatures. 

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I spent several days spreading fertilizer on the ground that was going to be planted to wheat.  Scientists know how much nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus is removed from a field for each bushel of grain we raise.  We apply fertilizer to replace those nutrients.  It looks quite a bit like the slow release granules you can buy for your flower beds at home.  We also take soil samples periodically to make sure we are not over or under applying the plant food to the crops.

Our local supplier delivered fertilizer to the field for me.

I used a fertilizer spreader pulled behind the tractor.  When you look at it, it looks a lot like the lawn and garden spreaders you might use in your yard; however, where you “eye ball” where you should walk next, I on the other hand have GPS that keeps me within 6 inches of where I need to be to apply accurately.  I was driving every 50 feet by the way. 

My GPS unit that helps me drive straight and the same distance from each and every pass.
The Farmer went out to plant the wheat after I was finished delivering the nutrients to the fields.  Each part of the country has a preferred planting date.  In our part of Kansas, the Hessian fly free date is October 15 (which happens to be very close to our average first frost date).  If your wheat is up and growing before that date and the Hessian flies are present they can cause problems next spring in the presence of disease.  We started a little early knowing that we were forecast to get a freeze the first weekend of October.  Since we are still in a drought, we also needed to plant while there was still moisture in the soil and possibly a chance of rain. 

It may look like there are a lot of weeds in the field, but after the freeze we had they are all dead.  We prefer to use mother nature to control weeds this time of year instead of chemicals.

As I have said before, we are no-till farmers.  We don’t till or “work” the ground before we plant.  It has greatly reduced how much fuel we use and leaving the residue from the previous crop provides a great mulch to the growing crop.  This was very well utilized this past summer with the extreme heat and lack of rainfall.

These corn plants died after the frost and will leave a nice layer of mulch to help hold in moisture this winter.

In a week or so, we will see the wheat growing in the rows, it will just look like grass from now until April.  The heads will start to develop and emerge closer to summer and it would look like the wheat you know and have seen in pictures.

One of our wheat fields last April after the heads had emerged.
We typically harvest our wheat in the middle of June; however, this year we were harvesting in May.  It has been such an unusual year.  Have you seen where my crop goes after harvest?

Curious when farmers plant and harvest the different crops?  Each part of the state is different and although this isn't perfectly our Southeast Kansas calendar it is a good post on In Between the Sunsets of Life.

What are you doing in your gardens and fields in preparation for winter?