Winter wheat harvest begins just like any other crop does––with land preparation. At Silver Reef, we apply an average of 25 tons of manure per acre every year based on our annual soil tests. We spread an appropriate amount of manure to ensure that the wheat is supported through every step of its growth: from emergence, to tillering, through jointing, and finally at head development. After every field is spread with manure, it is plowed to incorporate the manure nutrients into the soils and then the seed bed is prepared for wheat planting.
Winter Wheat Variety Selection
And just like we’ve discussed in our other blogs, planting various winter wheat varieties is key. We pick our seed varieties based on seed trials performed by Colorado State University and South Dakota State University as well as recommendations from Certified seed growers from the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers. The seed trials are a vital piece in ensuring the varieties we select are appropriate for growing in our altitude and climate as well as verifying their biological strengths and weaknesses. Recommendations from Certified seed growers also give us insight into our fellow farmer’s experiences in yields and harvest quality as they have grown these specific varieties.
Once all that is said and done, come harvest, there are certain specifications we must meet in order to sell to our customers. These specifications can verify from customer to customer and is dependent on the production contract we sign. This year, our specifications were as follows:
- Moisture must be less than 13%
- Protein must be greater than 8%
- Test Weight must be a minimum of 58 lbs
The revenue that we receive from wheat harvest is dependent on these contract specifications. In the event that one of our truck loads does not meet the minimums outlined in our contract, that load may be “docked”; in layman’s terms, dockage means a discount given by our customer on the load for not meeting the specs, which will result in lost revenue for us. So throughout harvest, we are continuously checking our loads to verify moisture, test weight and protein content to make sure that dockage does not occur. In order to track this, we use a multitude of different tools: grain testers, samples tested at local grain elevators and our combine’s computer system.
Assessing the Harvest
Our combine, a John Deere 9770 STS, is equipped with John Deere’s own GreenStar3 Technology. This program controls both the GPS system and the harvest monitor. The harvest monitor checks harvest in real-time and collects data related to moisture and yield. This software collects second by second, acre by acre data that effectively lets us know everything we need to know related to harvest as we move across the field.
Not only is that incredibly helpful while we are in the thick of harvest but also once harvest season has come to a close. During our winter’s strategic planning, we can take the data collected by the harvest monitor, upload it into our office software and begin to evaluate harvest as a whole. Once we evaluate harvest trends from this data, we can begin to breakdown each field and each variety’s strength and weaknesses. With this detailed understanding, we can make more informed farm management decisions when it comes to manure and fertilization, winter wheat variety selection, and obstacles to production to make sure that the next year’s harvest is even more successful.
For more information on the benefits of manure and seed variety, feel free to check out our previous blogs, which can be found here or here.