Monday, October 3, 2016

What Goes Around, Comes Around Again: Wheat 2017

As the sun sank into the west and tinged the clouds above with light, God's sunset masterpiece spoke of promise and hope. It's a good thing to remember as we continue planting our 2017 wheat crop.
Here in Central Kansas, we plant winter wheat. The hard red winter wheat is planted in the fall and comes up looking like tender green grass. As cold weather arrives, it goes dormant during the cold months of winter before coming out of its "hibernation" and growing again next spring before maturing for a June harvest. Wheat is far and away our biggest crop here on the County Line. Randy is not quite halfway done planting 1,283 acres to wheat.
For the past week, Ricky has been working ground with a disc and packers before Randy plants the wheat using a drill. 
Some of the wheat is being planted on ground where we harvested the corn crop in August. You can see the residue left behind, even after the ground is worked.
Kansas is classified as drought free, which is great news after so much of the state suffered from drought for more than three years. (In 2013, 104 of Kansas' 105 counties were classified as federal disaster areas because of drought.)
However, while we have good sub-soil moisture, Randy would have preferred about an inch of rain before planting. We didn't get it, but he went ahead anyway. Sometimes, you have to do the job because it's "time."
We saved some of our 2016 crop in bins on the farm to use as seed wheat. It was binned during harvest this summer, and then we load it into the truck to take to Miller Seed Farms near Partridge for cleaning. They treat it with a fungicide, which helps protect the small wheat plants from disease. It's also treated with an insecticide which helps keep bugs at bay. (Those treatments are what gives the wheat its pink tinge.) Detractors worry about the amount of chemicals that go into the mix. However, only 0.48 ounce per bushel of Cruiser is used, while 1.68 ounce per bushel of the Vibrance product is used. Think about a little bottle of eye drops (usually about 0.5 ounces). Adding slightly more than 2 ounces to a whole bushel of grain is really not much!
Once the truck is full, he takes it to the field, where he uses the auger on the grain truck to load the wheat into the drills. He sure thinks it beats shoveling, which he did for a lot of years!

Today, I'll be making a trip to Miller Seed Farms to pick up our certified seed wheat. Our reserved bags of KanMark (a K-State release) and WB 4458 (a WestBred variety) will be used to plant for seed wheat. When we harvest the certified seed next June, it will go in the on-farm bins to be used for seed wheat the next year. And so it goes ...

During those seed stops, Randy also has to fill up the tank with fertilizer.
The starter fertilizer is a combination of nitrogen and phosphate laid down right beside the planted seed. As the seed germinates, its roots seek out the nutrients, establishing a strong root system.
The fertilizer gets transferred from the 1,000-gallon "nurse" tank pulled by the pickup to this tank on the drill. Then it goes into tubes ...
and is squirted out of small holes in the drill.
As a board member, Randy gets a weekly update from Kansas Wheat. Last Friday, CEO Justin Gilpin concluded with some thoughts about this process that struck home with me and went perfectly with a sunset photo I took of Randy planting.

Peaks and valleys: It’s part of all aspects of life.  I encourage my kids to participate as much as possible in sports so that they learn life lessons like dealing with adversity, being a teammate, being accountable, and picking yourself up when you’ve been knocked down.

Being a wheat farmer, you guys know all about that.  The courage it takes to spend 12-14 hour days, drilling wheat when you know cash price is less than $3 dollars.  Sowing seeds when the rewards are 9 months and good fortune away from harvesting.  Putting all of your hopes into the weather and “generations of how-best-to” knowledge that has been passed down and learned through past failures.  Wheat farming is something special.  I hope you all know that the world watches with admiration, and I’m proud of you guys...
As Randy worked his way toward me one night last week, he turned on his lights. He knows how I like light shining from a tractor or combine as the light fades during a sunset.

So even with a challenging price and no crystal ball for what the weather will bring, the lights are on ... the optimism continues on the County Line. This week, Pastor Nate's sermon was based on Luke 17 and having the faith of a "mustard seed." I think it goes for wheat kernels, too.


  1. Good Luck with winter wheat planting 2016, Miss Kim! I like the thoughts that you shared from Justin Gilpin.

    1. Thank you, Robyn! We are having our second day of high winds. It's not good on newly-planted wheat. I hope it blows in a little rain.

  2. Love your photos. I'm doing a presentation and wondered if I could use your photos in my PPT and post.