Thursday, October 15, 2009

Random Pre-Harvest Pictures.

Irrigating Wheat.

Here is some of the PostRock at the Gray Havens pre-hail storm. This kind of wheat is just begging to be hailed on, or eaten by grasshoppers, or having someone park their flaming suburban next to it. What you see toward the top right is the lasting effects of the old road to the irrigation well.

I think the white heads had more to do with late season drought pressure than a freeze, and there certainly wasn't enough moisture to cause scab.

This is a picture I might bring with me next time I sign up for wheat insurance. This soil type is considered "High Risk" by the government because it was listed as unsuitable for dryland agriculture by Dad and his buddies back in the fifties. The thing is, back in the fifties, it WAS unsuitable for dryland agriculture because the only effective weed control back then involved tillage. And we all know what happens when this ground is left uncovered in a drought. With modern no-till practices, it is possible to greatly reduce the risk of blowing ground once you achieve a proper level of crop residue on the surface. With that problem out of the way, lighter soils actually become more desirable in a water-limiting environment. This has to do with how tightly the soil particles hold on to water molecules. Heavier ground has more water storing capacity, that is a fact, but is has this ability precisely because there is more surface area to which water molecules can bond. This surface area in the soil is competing with the plant roots for that water, and the plant has a much easier time extracting water from lighter (sandier) soils from heavier (more clay) soils under limited moisture conditions. You can see that in this picture. Notice how the lighter colored wheat follows the contours of the lower ground. This lower ground has a heavier soil than the hilltops do. And in a slightly droughthy environment, the plants on the hilltops were able to draw more moisture from the soil than the wheat in the valleys.

The head on the top is most likely a spring tiller, which would have a less developed root system. Basically the wheat was fooled by early season moisture into making too many heads, which came back to hurt it later on. Also this indicates that in this particular year, I would have been better off with a heavier seeding rate, which would have reduced the ratio of tillers to primary heads.
You can see (kind of) that the lower head still has pretty good seeds up into the more mature portions of the head:

The tiller head, however is largely without any seed:

But even in these tough conditions, this tiller was still able to reproduce:

Forward fast a a few weeks. I was actually in the insurace office buying hail insurance on my corn and we watched this storm on the radar. "I guess I'll probably call you in the morning about my wheat."

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