Sunday, March 23, 2014

Boring Pictures of Growing Wheat

The wheat came out of dormancy a couple of weeks ago. I usually also start agonizing and worrying about what sort of harvest I'm going to get about this time because you have to get enough rain to get it growing, but not too much rain, it has to rain at the right time to get a good grain fill, it has to stop raining before harvest,  there might be a late freeze that hammers the yield, etc. (they say that you have about 6 crop failures every year when you plant wheat).

So, I decided to start taking some pictures at different times between breaking dormancy and harvest so that I can compare how the wheat looks each year.  As a bonus, I can also start to show more of my little piece of the world to whoever happens to be reading this blog. 

I put some stakes out there as a landmark to make it easier to gauge the height of the wheat as it starts to grow. If you look close, or if I had been able to take a closer picture before the camera ran out of battery life, you might be able to see the orange strips I painted on the stakes (each strip is 6") to help measure the height.  

The first picture is looking across the field closest to the barn, it's not the best part of the field, but it's close and easy to take pictures from this spot.  I no-tilled this wheat into some crabgrass stubble in late October, and it was fertilized with about 90 lb. of nitrogen.

Wheat Field 23 March 2014
I first saw an article about pasture cropping about six years ago and started experimenting with the method a few years ago.  Pasture cropping is basically drilling cool season grain crops into warm season perennial grass stands to get the benefits of a grain harvest, grazing during the summer, and some regeneration or improvement of the pasture due to the two different sorts of crops complementing each other.   Typically, a pasture cropped field is fertilized the same as a conventional field, while also having some sort of herbicide applications to control weeds, etc.

No-kill cropping is a similar technique except there isn't any fertilizer or herbicide applied, the crop is just drilled into the pasture in hopes of more winter grazing possibilities or a grain harvest is all the stars somehow manage to line up.

 Anybody that's actually interested in pasture cropping or no-kill cropping would probably be better off going online to find more detailed information at a website like:

In my experimenting with pasture cropping, I've had mixed results, but I've never had a real failure. 

I drilled wheat in a number of places in pastures this fall to experiment a little more, and this picture is of a the weaning pen that is mostly Bermuda grass, it was grazed over the summer, mowed to control weeds (I'm not convinced that worked), then it had some weaned calves on it for a couple of weeks before I drilled the wheat.  It had no fertilizer or herbicide applied, so it might technically be more similar to no-kill cropping than pasture cropping.   

Weaning Pen 23 March 2014
It's hard to tell from the angle of the pictures, but at this point I've ended up with almost as good of a stand of wheat in the weaning pen as the fields with "normal" wheat.  If I can get a grain harvest from this pasture, my only expense will be about $10/acre for seed and the cost of fuel for the tractor.  Even a much lower grain yield than a conventional field could mean a higher profit, since my input costs are so low.

It's hard to describe to someone that doesn't grow wheat, but it's pretty exciting to me to think that there's a possibility that I could convert my cropland to perennial grass pasture and still plant and harvest a wheat crop from those fields.  I'm getting better results the more I experiment, so I'm hoping these pictures might help me figure out something I haven't figured out yet.

Since I'm having trouble with my camera, I going to include some pictures I took with my phone to see if the quality is good enough to ditch my camera and just use my phone for taking pictures.  Let me know what you think about the picture quality.

Wheat Field - 23 March 2014
Wheat Field - 23 March 2014
Weaning Pen - 23 March 2014
Weaning Pen - 23 March 2014


  1. That wide open view is pretty amazing... I don't see that here anymore. Back when I lived in MN, I'd drive through 35 miles of cornfields/bean fields to work, and for much of the year it was barren, and a person could see as far as visibility permitted.

    The place I worked at once contracted with a Russian company, and one of their guys came to visit. The first thing he wanted to do was drive out to western MN and see the open plains.

    It's a remarkable sight, and one of the reasons we aren't all hungry.

    1. I'm not so sure I could live somewhere where I didn't have a wide-open view or the wind didn't blow. It might be hard to imagine the scale in the picture, but in the top picture, you can just barely see some poles, which are some electric transmission line poles in the wheat field, and it's just under half of a mile to those poles from where I took the picture. The top of the hill is on this side of the poles and is about 3/8 of a mile away (almost impossible to make out if you don't know what you are looking at).

      In the future, I'll try to get some pictures that show more of the open grassland and fields around here. The farm is located on the high point between two drainages and there are places in that field where you can see for miles.

  2. Driving out west I am always amazed at how 'big' the sky is because you can see so much closer to the horizon than in hilly and tree studded SE Iowa. It has always been a dream of mine to be able to sit outside somewhere in that kind of country and watch a storm coming from miles away.

    1. The last time I was in Iowa (North on 1-35 to Des Moines then east to Illinois, then back to Des Moines and west to Nebraska) , it seemed to me that a lot of it was pretty similar to back here in Oklahoma.

      It was a little greener, had more trees, there was more corn and soybeans than wheat, and it was a lot cooler (I was there in late summer), but I could see myself living there.

  3. Back in my youth, everyone used to raise wheat here as well as corn and soybeans but now a days, you don't see wheat more than a crop rotation on rare occasions. Mostly it is because we can only raise a good crop of wheat about one in ten years and the year we have a good crop the price isn't worth selling it.

    Like I mentioned in your other post, I went through far eastern Oklahoma and it is very similar to Iowa, especially north central Iowa where the state flattens out a bit and doesn't have nearly as many trees as what we have in SE Iowa. It definitely was a nice drive down Highway 75 and we spent the night on the way south in McAlester, Oklahoma. On the way north again I just drove straight through but I still had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery before reaching Missouri.