Sunday, April 20, 2014

Farmer: Human element key for harvest

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 6/28/2013

At Spencer Farms, wheat harvest is just about over, Kevin Spencer said.

Spencer is the daily operations manager for the farm, located in southeast Franklin County near Rantoul.

At Spencer Farms, wheat harvest is just about over, Kevin Spencer said.

Spencer is the daily operations manager for the farm, located in southeast Franklin County near Rantoul.

“We should be done in the next two days,” Spencer said. “We’re three weeks behind [where] we were last year. This is normal. Last year we were three weeks ahead because of dry, hot conditions.”

Contrary to what some might think, the 2012 drought actually could have been beneficial to wheat growth and harvest, Spencer said.

“Rain during wheat harvest is not a good thing,” Spencer said. “Wheat doesn’t like cool, wet conditions. Rain isn’t good during wheat harvest because it drops the test weight, but we’ve seen good test weight so far.”

Test weight is a measure of the weight of grain per volume bushel, Spencer said, and higher moisture leads to lower test weight.

If not maintained correctly with preventative measures taken, Spencer said, wheat can become exposed to disease from too much moisture.

“It’s a disease that limits our wheat yield and timely harvest,” he said. “ ... [The] primary thing is fungicides, and we did two treatments [of fungicide] and that’s upped [wheat] yields.”

Spencer credited the fungicide for helping to raise yields.

“Our [lowest amount] has been 68 [bushels], and the top’s been 78 bushels an acre. There was a time when we thought 50 bushels was good,” he said. “You can see the guys that did something and the guys that did nothing, and it can be as much as half [the amount of bushels yielded].”

Kansas might be considered the wheat state, but Franklin County is not the wheat county, Spencer said. At Spencer Farms, wheat isn’t necessarily grown and harvested just to make money, he said.

“Generally, wheat isn’t a big crop in Franklin County,” he said. “Wheat is last behind corn and beans. It’s a rotation crop to control weeds.”

Spencer Farms has been growing wheat since 1972 when the farm was just 40 acres, its website states. Once all the wheat is harvested, Spencer said they will plant soybeans in the same field.

“We try to get two crops out of one year, and that can be beneficial,” he said. “As soon as we get the wheat cut, we’ll do after-wheat beans. We’ll put soybeans in the straw [of the wheat] as soon as it’s cut.”

Spencer said anyone can throw a seed in the ground and call themselves a farmer, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The ways to get the most out of a wheat harvest or any harvest, he said, is dependent on management of the crops.

“It’s the management practices that get you the yield,” he said. “The timeliness of planting and insect control. It’s all those little things that make a big difference.”

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