Thursday, July 9, 2020

By the Numbers: Wheat Harvest 2020

Anybody who knows me, knows I am not a numbers person. It's not that I don't find value in numbers, but my brain is wired more for words than for enumerating. (My high school math teacher - Mr. Bisel - would have confirmed that truth. The poor man likely thought he'd developed an appendage as I spent day-after-day at his desk trying to understand geometry.)
Still, it's valuable to tally numbers from time to time. The finale of Wheat Harvest 2020 is one of those times. And we are DONE - as of about 8 PM, Tuesday, July 7. Thankfully, my husband is a numbers guy and makes yearly charts with yields at each field and other dizzying details.
Our start date - June 16 - seems so long ago.  It's always interesting to see how start and end dates compare from year to year. After last year's late start, this year's June 16 start date was about average. Here are the stats:
2010:  June 18
2011:  June 10
2012:  May 26 (an anomaly and the earliest harvest, by far, we've ever had)
2013:  June 21
2014:  June 17
2015:  June 20
2016:  June 15
2017:  June 12
2018: June 12
2019: June 26
2020: June 16
through the combine windshield - June 16, 2020
The finish dates are all over the board in the past 10 years, too:
2010: June 25
2011: June 20
2012: June 9 (an anomaly)
2013: July 6
2014: July 7
2015: July 1
2016: July 13 (another saga of a harvest)
2017: June 28
2018: June 29
2019: July 22
2020: July7

We were blessed with a better-than-average harvest in 2020. We are especially grateful after last year, which was our worst harvest since I began blogging (and among the worst since Randy began farming back in the 1970s.)
Yield averages in the years since I've been blogging have been:

2010: 37.2 bu/acre
2011: 36.7 bu/acre
2012: 45.5 bu/acre
2013: 52 bu/acre
2014: 24.5 bu/acre
2015: 50 bu/acre
2016: 48.5 bu/acre
2017: 50.84 bu/acre
2018: 39.2 bu/acre
2019: 23.6 bu/acre
2020: 49.5 bu/acre

Our high yield was 76.5 bushels per acre. Our low was 26. As Randy says, he's "exceptionally happy."
The 2020 Wheat journey began last September 25, when we began planting this year's crop. I blogged about chauffeuring Bob Dole back to our farm. It was actually some Bob Dole certified seed, which we planted this year for the first time and which will become part of our seed wheat for the 2021 crop.  Bob Dole - not the Kansas senator and one-time presidential candidate - is a new wheat variety developed by Kansas State University and released in a public-private partnership between Syngenta and Kansas wheat farmers through the Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas Wheat Alliance. The hard red winter wheat variety, which is distributed by Agri-Pro, was first introduced in Kansas during the 2018 season. We also planted Zenda certified seed last fall.
Actually, the life cycle for the 2020 crop started even sooner. During our 2019 harvest, Randy saved two varieties of wheat - Larry and Zenda - and that is the wheat we drilled last fall after a trip to Miller Seed Farm for cleaning and seed treatment.
It went back in our home bins until we were ready to plant. It is augered out of the truck into the drill boxes. The wheat we save at harvest can only be used by our farm.
For the 2020 crop, we planted 1,575 acres to wheat. This is the most wheat acreage we've ever had. We harvested all but 200 acres of it ourselves. We hired a neighbor to harvest at a couple of locations. 

Here are a few other photos of the wheat crop as it grew:
 October 22, 2019
Spring green ...
April 2, 2020 

May 8, 2020
May 28, 2020

2020 has been a year to remember. Both Randy and I are presidents of our respective branches of the Kansas Master Farmer/Homemaker organization. We (read - me!) had to write a summer letter and in it, we acknowledged how much lives have changed with Covid-19. (This reflects our division of labor. He's the numbers guy. I take care of the words.)

Here's just a snippet of the letter:
Even as we’ve had to learn to watch church services online, attend meetings via Zoom and call ahead at farm supply stores because of locked doors, the work has churned on at our homes and ranches. I’m guessing most of us already made most meals at home, so we were ahead of the curve! We still had baby calves to work and the annual exodus to take cow-calf pairs to summer pasture. Spring planting still got done, and the corn and soybean plants seem to grow overnight these days. ...  

As you watch another Kansas sunrise or sunset or see those sunflowers blooming along our ditches, we hope you’ll find the beauty in this spectacular life we live, even in the midst of a difficult time. Our ancestors faced adversity. They laid the groundwork for perseverance. It’s even bound up in our state motto: To the stars through difficulty. Here on the Stafford/Reno County line, we hope you are finding the stars and the beauty in each day.
Farmers and ranchers are essential workers. And, even if the world and the way we do things had to evolve, it was still a blessing to do the work that our ancestors have been doing for five generations in Kansas.

Randy & his dad, Melvin, at harvest - undated (sorry!)
And now on to the next thing. It's time for the second cutting of alfalfa - and a whole bunch of other things that have taken a back seat to wheat harvest. I suppose I don't have an excuse not to continue the clean-and-purge efforts now either.


  1. Loved the stats! So much to take in, in this post and always with your writing, the need to be positive shines through. Do all your states have a motto?
    Good luck with the clean and purge!

    1. I think most states probably have mottos, though I would be hard-pressed to name them all. Thanks for the vote of confidence on the clean and purge. I've already made great progress, but there's definitely more to do.