Monday, June 04, 2012

Repost: How to tell when to harvest the wheat

A major concern last week was the condition of the wheat. My family was in St. Louis for a wedding while the wheat was about ready to cut. People were doing test cuts as my brother left the farm. So enjoy this repost and I'll be back with original content tomorrow.

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.

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