as soon as the wheat has been harvested from a field, Kansas
farmers begin preparing the field for planting the next year’s
wheat crop. The wheat stubble (what’s left of the wheat
plants after the heads have been cut off by the combine) is
chopped up and mixed with the soil. This also kills any weeds
which might have started growing in the wheat stubble, saving
soil moisture for the next wheat crop. Working the soil also
breaks up the surface of the soil so that rain can soak into
need nutrients and fertilizer, just like people might take
vitamins to grow up strong and healthy. Farmers test the soil
to determine just which nutrients are needed in each field.
The nutrients needed for the next crop to be grown in that
field will be added to the soil. At the same time that nutrients
and fertilizer are being applied in a field, any growing weeds
may be killed. The weeds steal moisture from the soil that
is needed for the next crop.
liquid nutrients and fertilizer run from the big tanks thru
plastic tubing down to tubes attached to the blades on this
implement called an “undercutter”. The undercutter
has big V-shaped blades that slide under the surface of the
soil, slicing off the roots of weeds without chopping up the
surface of the soil. Since the blades are placed into the
ground at the same depth that the roots of the new wheat plants
will be, the fertilizer and nutrients are being placed into
the “root zone”. Once the small plants start growing,
they will have the necessary nutrients to grow strong and
is wheat planting time in Kansas. Wheat is planted with a
drill, which is pulled by a tractor. A drill makes “furrows”
- opening up the center of the furrow, dropping a line of
seeds into the opening, and then covering the seeds up with
a thin layer of soil. The soil mounded slightly on each side
of the furrow helps protect the tiny plants from strong winds
and any moisture collects in the bottom of the furrow –
right where the seeds have been placed. All the furrows must
have seeds so when there’s not enough seed left to fill
the drill, it may be necessary to move the seeds around inside
the drill’s seed boxes so that every furrow gets seed.
wheat sprouts and grows some during the fall but it goes dormant
during the winter. Even during the winter, it is necessary
to check the wheat to make sure the plants are healthy and
not being damaged by weeds, insects, or diseases.
must be harvested at just the right time. The stalks of the
wheat plants must be dry so they can be easily cut by the
combine. The wheat seeds must be dry so they can be stored
without spoiling. The outer coating of each seed must be hard
enough to protect the seed from damage when the grain is being
shaken out of the heads inside the combine or being moved
from place to place.
when the wheat is ready to cut, the wheat plants are dead
and drying up. This means that the stalks are brittle and
can be easily broken or blown over. Since everything is dry,
the seeds themselves can be shook by wind or rain and fall
out onto the ground. This is called “shattering”
and the seeds cannot be recovered and sold. When the wheat
heads begin to “nod”, it is time to cut the wheat.
Kansas wheat harvest starts in June at the southern border
of Kansas, usually in the area south of Wichita or to the
west. From there, the wheat harvest spreads north and west
in the larger wheat-growing areas of the state. Wheat harvest
in Kansas usually ends in early July at the Nebraska border
and in mid-July at the Colorado border.
is harvested with a self-propelled machine called a “combine”.
At the front of the combine, a large reel turns and pushes
the heads of the wheat plants into a “sickle”.
The “sickle” cuts the heads off the plants and
they are pulled into the combine. The combine shakes and
beats the wheat seeds out of the heads and separates the
kernels (wheat seeds) from all the other plant materials.
The kernels are moved into a grain tank on the combine while
all the other “extra” stuff is blown out the
back of the combine and spread across the field.
harvest is finished for this year but it’s time to
start all over again if the field will be planted to wheat
in just 2-3 months.