Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How to tell when to harvest the wheat

This is Wattson's wheat. As of this picture, it was not ready to harvest.1

This, too, is Wattson's wheat. It looks ready to harvest.

Do you see the difference between those two fields?
The difference is in the angle of the heads on the wheat.
Turning from green to brown is one excellent way of judging the development of the wheat. Then you need to watch the head. Straight up and down means that it's not there yet. When it bends over to better release it's seeds you know it's very close.

The final test is to check the moisture content of the seed. The proper way to do this is to cut a small test sample, take a can of grain to your local grain elevator, and let them use the machine on it. In less than a minute it'll tell you the moisture content. You want it under 15% or they dock you.

But how do you tell if you should even attempt the test sample?
Take a head from a stalk of wheat.

Jam the head into the palm of your hand and grind it in circles.

This breaks up the head to release the seed.

You can blow on the debris in your hand, pour the debris from hand to hand, or both. The point is to separate the seed from the chaff.

Ta-da! Wheat seed.

Pop that seed in your mouth and chew it up. Ideally, the seed should be hard enough to make you worry about your fillings. This stuff wasn't that hard. It was kinda chewy, really. Like oatmeal that hasn't been cooked anywhere near long enough. We guessed that it was about 22%. Definitely more than 15%. It was an educated guess. You have to chew a lot of seed and run it through the tester to figure out what chewiness equals what moisture level.

The field we checked after this one had harder, but not ideal, wheat. The machine measured it as 14.7%.

This part is optional.

1The grain elevator in the background is three and a half miles away.


Unknown said...

Thanks! THis is Just what I needed to know. Planted a 10x10 plot of Winter Wheat in the Fall and it's looking really good. Nearly ready to harvest. Not enough to make much bread, but it's an experiment and I plan on saving the seed to plant more next year in a bigger plot.
Now would you know when to harvest the oats I also planted?

Ibid said...

Nope. We haven't done oats. Ask again when it comes to sorgum/milo or soybeans and I can get use a useful answer.

Unknown said...

Wow! i
I could have written this post, except I planted spring wheat. I planted the same size plot for the same reason.

Only thing is, I planned to grind into flour by hand.
LOL That is NOT going to happen - it might kill me!

Can you suggest a good electric grinder?


Unknown said...

My dad has an electric grinder that I've seen him use exactly once. I think he got it used a decade ago. Unfortunately, it's not something that has an obvious branding on it.

Anonymous said...

Get yourself the Wondermill. It is an excellent, durable mill. We have one, use it all the time. We put it side by side to the Nutrimill, the Nutrimill fell incredibly short.

HoldingPatterns said...

Thanks for the tips! We are growing wheat at the preschool and I needed some education on the matter!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the clear illustrations and explanation! My daughter planted a few stalks of wheat in school and she has been diligently watering them. She thought it was ready to harvest, but I was able to convince her to wait by showing her your illustrations. I appreciate you imparting your wisdom to the next generation!


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