Saturday, April 26, 2014

How's the Wheat Doing?

Personally, I think we're heading into another summer of drought, but I don't want anyone that reads this to get the wrong impression that I'm complaining about it or feeling sorry for myself.  I've survived three droughts recently and I'll be able to survive the next one.
It seems like I might or might not have picked a great year to document how my wheat is growing so that I can easily look back at these pictures as a reference in the future to gauge how well my wheat is doing    I think we've had a grand total of just under 3" of rain since October, had a hard freeze a couple of weeks ago (which can kill the heads of wheat),  and for the last couple of weeks we've had strong winds and temperatures in the 80's which sucks whatever moisture we do have right out of the ground.

The wheat started heading out a few days ago, so I decided to take some pictures.  If you look hard enough you can see that it's about 12" tall or so and has reasonably sized heads for the conditions.  In an average year (whatever that is), the wheat would be about twice that high, and would have headed out a couple of weeks ago.  

You can start to see that it's running out of moisture and is turning yellow in spots and it's turning blue in a few isolated spots that have some freeze damage. 
Stepping back from my marker, you can see where I have some compaction problems by the gate from the extra traffic going through that gate and how even less moisture is available because of that compaction. 
If we don't get a little bit of rain soon, there might not be much of anything to harvest.  If we get just a little bit of rain, we might get a below average harvest or it might grow just a little bit taller so that it could be cut for hay.  Either way, there's nothing I can do about it at this point, but I'm slightly optimistic that I'll be able to salvage something.  

I don't have any updated pictures of my pasture-cropped wheat because there isn't much to take a picture of at this point, it ran out of moisture, had some freeze damage, and I put the cows on it a couple of weeks ago.  But, I wouldn't say it was a failure, I did get some grazing out of it, the root system is still down in the ground doing all it's organic matter building stuff, and I learned that there might be a higher chance of freeze damage during a freak hard freeze in April.  There is also a chance that a little extra fertility might be worth applying to pasture cropped wheat to get a little extra growth soon after planting.

My best result this winter might be my experiment with planting a combination of 90 lb. of wheat, 4-5 lb. of crimson clover, and 3-4 lb. of canola per acre.  This 6 acre test area had some wheat on it that was harvested in July, it was mowed in late September to knock down the weeds and grass, then the wheat combined with the clover and canola was drilled into the field without any starter fertilizer or herbicide application.  I then top dressed it in early March with 30 lb. of Nitrogen per acre.  

The canola was frozen out, but the clover seems to have survived the winter and is starting to flower, and the wheat looks about the same as the rest of my wheat, but I have less input costs in this plot.  In a wetter year, I suspect that the clover would be bigger, would have fixed more N for the following crops, and would have created more organic material to start building more organic matter in the field.  Hopefully, it will go to seed, will blow out of the back of the combine when I'm cutting the wheat, and it will come up as a volunteer stand of clover next year, reducing my input costs even more.  Once again, I'm optimistic.
Looking North-East

Crimson Clover in Winter Wheat
 Since I was taking pictures,  here is a shot of my one and only canola plant that's finally bolted and flowered, which is about 2-3 weeks behind schedule. 

Finally, here's  a shot of my farm garden/test plot (approx. 1000 sq.ft.) with some bio-char applied to an area that was planted to wheat then mowed a couple of weeks ago.  I'm planning on planting some sorghum-sudangrass here, or some sort of cover crop mix of sorghum-sudangrass, sunflowers, and whatever I can come up with.  
Now, I just wish it would rain tonight the way they are forecasting, I don't really want to go to the trouble of washing my pickup just to try to make it rain.


  1. Perhaps that is why I didn't become a farmer. I hate depending on something I can't control like rain. It wouldn't be so bad as a hobby but as a livelihood...

    1. I'd rather depend on the rain instead of depending on some of the nitwit bosses I've had in the past.

      I'm self-employed, I don't really answer to anybody, I benefit if I work hard, I dress however I choose, I don't have to work with people I don't like, and in return, I have to worry once in awhile about the weather.

      If I had a boss, I'd have almost no control of anything. I'd have to work whenever he told me to work, I'd have to work on whatever project he felt was important, I'd have to dress the way the boss wanted me to dress, I might or might not get the credit for my work, I'd have to deal with a bunch of co-workers whether I wanted to or not, and I could be fired any day the boss chose.

      I'd rather worry about the rain, I probably have more control of the rain then most people have of their bosses and working conditions.

    2. Definitely good points. I guess that is why right now I'm calling myself retired early because I can't bring myself to go work for 'the man' again and I'm not a farmer again. I'm somewhere in-between. I definitely think that if I chose to rectify my situation, I'm going to be self employed one way or another from here on out.

    3. I've worked long enough for myself that I just hope I don't have to get a job in the future where I have to work for someone else.

  2. Fairly recently, the weather channel in springfield that I get through my antennae has started showing more than just our region. I've seen lots of rain in your area... must just not have been quite where you needed it. Sorry about that... a couple of years ago I watched clouds miss us by just a little, heard booms just up the road, and had to drag hoses to try to keep what I could alive. It sucked. Watching things die because of something you have no control over isn't fun.

    Working for someone else is... well... you hope for the best. I've had enough experiences to think long and hard about how much moolah I need to get by. Not much. There are a whole lot of things I'd rather be doing than listen to some entitled dude puff himself up and pontificate about his greatness. I put up with many things when I was younger that are entirely unacceptable to me now.

    1. Most of those weather radars looked like they were dumping a bunch of rain, but we would get rain totals of something like 0.015" out of them if we were lucky.

      We had one rain of 0.10", but when it's 80 degrees and the wind is blowing 30mph, that evaporates in a hurry.

      It'll eventually rain again, it always does.

  3. It actually rained somewhere between a half inch and three quarters of an inch this morning (my rain gauges never seem to agree, so I'm saying it rained 0.625"), after the weather forecast last night was revised to a low chance of a sprinkle this morning.

    For once, I'm glad they got the rain forecast wrong.

    0.625" of rain isn't a drought buster of a rain, but it might be just enough to help the grain fill.