May 31, 2012

Wheat harvest in May?  Yes!  The combines and grain cart were stored in the very back of the big storage barn, but it did not take very long to pull them out and get ready to go to the field.   Ross and I cut a couple small fields of wheat yesterday afternoon.  Ross took his red CIH 8120 to the 2 Hills, and began… just to ‘test it out’.  He cut the first field by himself (18 acres), and then moved across Robinson Road to begin the second one (21 acres).  I joined him there with the JD 9770.  I worked the higher, steeper parts of the Cox Hill field, while Ross cut the lower, flat part along the railroad.

We got some surprises, besides the once-in-a-lifetime event of harvesting in May.  The moisture levels were extremely variable, Ross saw numbers from 28% down to 15%; for me the moisture numbers were more consistent up on the steep hillside- 14.2 to 14.9%.   The disappointment came with the yield numbers, they were lower than we expected.  I briefly did see yield read-outs of 70+, but I also saw areas near 20.  The yield maps have lots of colors, not just green for high yields.  Areas of the 2 fields that were lower and flat had much lower yield numbers than the higher, steeper areas– just about opposite of what one would expect.  Our first thoughts about the ‘why’ of this lead us to think that the really cold nights in early April damaged the wheat in the lower-lying areas…corresponding to areas that were more likely to see frost.  It just never occurred to us before entering these fields that the cold temps of April could have had this effect.   In averaging the extremely-variable yield numbers, my John Deere 2630 screen showed an average of 47 bushels per acres, at least 20% below our estimations.   All of the fields planted in wheat for 2012 are like those we harvested yesterday; each will have a ‘hilly’ part and some flat areas, too.  I guess we will have lower our expectations for the rest of wheat harvest.

Folks from Midwest Ag Systems (MAS) are coming today to help start the dryer for the first time.  It is by design that we cut wheat a little wet, so that we could test this new drying machine.    There are other benefits to harvesting wheat at a moisture level above market-ready 13%:  The combines are able to thresh a more clean sample (less chaff in the tank), the density or ‘test weight’ of the grain is higher, and it allows an earlier planting time for the double-crop soybeans that follow.

Our neighbor, Tom Loudermilk, has begun to roll up the straw into big, round bales.  We move the spreading mechanism on the back of the combines to another position, allowing them to ‘windrow’ the straw coming out the back of the combines.  That brings 40 feet of straw into a narrow band of about 2-3 feet, just right for Tom’s baler to gather.

I hope to get some pictures on the next combine day.  We are doing a little repair work to Ross’ MacDon header this morning.  I think it’s just a matter of replacing an oil filter.

So, it is a mixed bag at wheat harvest time this year.   We have these unusually early harvest dates, but disappointing yields.  Even so, we do have a crop to harvest… my mind goes back to seeing the corn fields of Kansas on that US 50 West trip Pat and I took last summer.   Those farmers had zero crop to gather, it died in the drought.

More rain is predicted for  this afternoon, and we would welcome that!

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