Saturday, May 13, 2023

Spring Wheat is Out of the Ground

It's nice to see everything turning green. Satisfying.

Until the tillers come up, it's easy to imagine that the drill isn't actually putting seeds down evenly in every row, as the Loup monitor only has sensors on 4 of the 24 rows. To make sure I'm on the right path, I dig down in the rows and look for seeds right after I start, but from then on have to assume that everything is going to keep working properly.

It's organic Hard Red Spring Wheat (HRSW), the variety is "Bolles", drilled 150 lbs/acre, 1.5" deep, on 7.5" rows May 4th and 5th. Then spread 2 tons/acre of turkey litter over it and used the tine weeder to work it in, as well as removing most little weeds in the top 1" of soil.


Saturday, May 6, 2023

Drilling Organic Spring Wheat

We have a short growing season this far north, the first of May is usually the earliest I can get into the field as the ground is just too wet and the equipment will bog down.  One way to avoid this is to plant winter wheat, which would be drilled in late summer, overwinter, and then be harvested the following summer.  My two other cash crops, corn and beans, aren't harvested until mid Oct and Nov, respectively, leaving no time to get winter wheat established in the fall, something critical to it's success.  In the meantime I'm looking for other profitable markets that would let me change this rotation.

The wheat will set the heaviest, "best" seed head, if it reaches maturity before it gets really hot in the summer. That means it needs to go in the ground the first part of May; sooner if you're further south than me. Despite the wet spring, I found a small window of three dry days that let me get it drilled May 4 and 5th. Of the 77 acres,  about six had to be "abandoned" as I didn't think I could get the drill through them without getting stuck. 

Before I could drill the wheat I made a pass with the field cultivator to kill the flushes of 1" tall weeds that had already emerged. About 3 days after planting, weather permitting, I'll run the tine weeder over everything, killing any remaining weeds in the top 1" (I drilled - on 7.5" rows - the wheat 1.5" deep). When the wheat is about 6" tall I'll go over it again with the tine weeder to try to get rid of as many weeds, mostly pigweed and lambsquarters, as possible.


The variety is "Bolles" bought from Albert Lea Seed, chosen because it has the best chance of meeting the organic food grade standards that will allow me to sell it for a substantially higher price.  Two years ago I made "food grade", and hope that luck continues this year. If it doesn't make the grade it'll be sold as organic animal feed.

Wheat is a necessary part of my crop rotation for a lot of reasons - soil health, weed suppression, Organic Certification requirements, and work load spread out during the growing season. Of the possible small grains (oats, barley, rye, emmer, spelt,....) it has the best markets for me.

The Loup drill monitor is ok, but it's not super accurate when seeding rates are so high (wheat is 2.1 million seeds or 150 lbs/acre. I think it would be better for something like soybeans - 162,000 seeds/acre -  though I plant my beans in 30" rows, metered by the AgLeader monitor, so I can cultivate for weeds.) I bought it because I was tired of always running short of seed, as well as hoping to avoid the constant calculation/adjustment of ground covered vs. bags used followed by a tweaking of the levers on the drill controlling the amount it puts out. My math turned out ok, of the 234 bags (11,700 lbs), I used all but 3 bags (150 lbs).

Depending on the yield, I expect there will be 2 or 3 semi-trailer loads (100,000 - 150,000 lbs) of wheat to sell this fall.

After the wheat is harvested, around August 1st, we'll drill a cover crop in.

[Why is it called a grain "drill" and "Jethro Tull" was a lot more than a Classic Rock Band.]