Wheat harvest finished up on the farm here in Middle Tennessee in the last few weeks. I was stuck in the office and didn’t have the opportunity to capture the actual harvest on the farm. Last Tuesday, I invited a custom wheat harvester to share her story on my blog.
Here is a photo of the wheat on May 6, about 5 weeks before harvest.
Here you can see how tall the wheat crop is (I’m on my knees)
After harvesting the seed portion of the plant, the combine leaves behind the stem, or stalk. These stalks are in windrow piles behind the harvester.
We bale the wheat straw for winter bedding in the bull barns. Last Fall, I talked about how much fun it is to spread out by pitchfork in each and every stall. Dust masks are needed if the straw is too dry. But if it gets wet at baling, mold will form.
After the straw bales are moved off the field and stored in the barn, soybeans will be planted in these fields into the wheat stubble, without disking up the land. Here is a field that has already been planted a few weeks prior. This is an example of double cropping.
I run everyday around the grass, waterways at the edges of these fields – surrounded by wheat (now soybeans), corn, pastures, and cattle. It makes for a great view and reminds me how blessed I am to be living on a farm while in school.
How is wheat used after harvest?
Wheat is one of the most common crops in the world used for human food supply. It is actually a grass that has been selected for its seed and is a very common cereal grain.
There are thousands of varieties of wheat, but can be organized into 6 classes: hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS), soft red winter (SRW), hard white (HW), soft white (SW) and durum. Here is a map that describes where each class is generally grown in the U.S.
Wheat is used for a number of products outside of human food – Polymers, Packing peanuts, Plastic Bags, Plastic film, eating utensils and molded items (biodegradable), Packaging, foams and insulation (biodegradable, starch-based), Reinforcing agents in rubber products (flour-based), Charcoal, Cups, Fine paper products (carbonless copy paper), Fuels, Golf Tees, Insulation, Medical swabs, Roofing and other building materials, Skeet pigeons, Textile finishing agents, Wood substitute in composite building materials. The Kansas Wheat Commission lists many more non-food uses of wheat.
A portion of the U.S. wheat crop is used for livestock feeds. Most of this coming in the form of by-products from the milling processes – wheat middlings, straw, or chaff. One of the largest uses for wheat in Oklahoma is grazing for cattle during the stages before wheat starts developing its seedhead.
What other uses for wheat can you identify?
Learn more about wheat farming from this North Dakota Wheat Farmer.