Besides first and second cut of hay, our first harvest of the year comes with wheat. This is the first of the grain crops to mature and warrant harvesting! We harvest, haul, dry (if necessary), and store/sell all of our wheat that we harvest, plus for customers of ours who pay to have any parts of those done for their fields because they don’t have the equipment needed. Once the conditions are right, and we’re busy monitoring our fields, getting antsy to harvest…the farmers start calling. So, as a rule our customers come first. They let us know when they want us to harvest based on the development of their crop, and the weather forecast. At the same time, we have to use all of the time between customers to do our own if the time is right. However…this usually doesn’t happen until near the end. So two weeks ago we started harvesting for a customer, so naturally I called my dad to get the plan of attack, and headed to the field after work. Here my uncle Graham was running the combine, and my job was to “catch loads” from it, and transfer them into our Freightliner truck as well as a transport truck that the customer owned. The purpose of this is to keep the combine moving as much as possible, enabling him to constantly harvest without stopping to dump off grain when the holding tank is full. This can be tricky at times, catching all of the grain that comes out of the auger while the combine is moving side to side, changing speeds based on how wet/dry the field is and how thick the wheat is in that spot. To illustrate this, I took a video. My apologies it isn’t the smoothest, but if I had held it the whole time, I would have had to sacrifice some steering concentration…and for this job, you need all you can get! Check out the video!
After the combine is empty and refilling, the transferring takes place. I also took a quick video of this part!
The last video I took of this is of my uncle turning around at the end of one of his passes through the field. It still impresses me every time I see how quickly the combine can turn around! What lets it accomplish this is the design of it: the tiny back set of wheels are the ones that turn!
So how did the wheat do this year? Well, depending on location, this may be a sore subject. Unique weather facilitated a growth of certain diseases which are not usually seen to this degree. The main disease was “Fusarium”. The moisture and temperature levels were perfect to promote fusarium growth around the time that much of the wheat in Southwestern Ontario was flowering. Areas like Oxford County were included, and by far and large if wheat in this area was flowering in this period, and they did not put a fungicide on the crop, their wheat went from a potential of grade 2, all the way down to feed grade, or possibly wasn’t even taken based on the fusarium levels. Looking at areas such as Kinkardine though, where the moisture levels are not nearly that of around here, they had little to no problem with fusarium. Normally farmers have a very high concern with the moisture level when they harvest, because they’ll get docked pay to dry it from a higher moisture content to that of what elevators they sell it to want to store it at. However, this year it seems that moisture was at the back of farmers minds, mostly concerned with what grade it received in regards to fusarium. In our case, we got off pretty lucky this year, but a lot of customers we harvested for had a range of grades and moisture content. We ran what we could of our own through our dryer in order to bring the moisture down before we sold it, but not everyone cares to grow that route!
Below is a disease profile from a third year plant pathology class I completed last year.
Host: Triticum aestivum, also known as wheat, is part of the Poaceae family. In Canada, wheat is a very widely grown crop, and can be used and are used for human consumption (durum = pasta, non-durum = milling), as well as animal feed (USDA, 2004). Globally, Canada is a major exporter of wheat (USDA, 2004).
Disease: Fusarium head blight overwinters in perithecia in crop residue, as well as on seeds themselves. This means that wheat can be infected as soon as it germinates, or infected later on by ascospores or conidia, from the disease present in the residue, at flowering (Schmale, 2003). The symptoms of fusarium head blight include a spreading bleaching effect on the spikelets (Schmale, 2003). Once this occurs, in moist environments, the head turns slightly pink/red, and later black due to the perithecia being formed (Schmale, 2003). The seeds can be unmarketable, being dry and bleached, and referred to as tombstones.
Pathogen: Fusarium graminearum is the fungal pathogen that causes fusarium head blight. This disease overwinters in the crop debris, or on the seed.
Method of Diagnosis: An unconfirmed diagnosis was reached by researching common wheat diseases in Canada from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2005). It was confirmed that this exists in Ontario by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2005). Confirmed diagnosis was not gained, however characteristics unique to this disease were visually present, these being that seeds possessed the tombstone figure, being shrivelled, chalky.
Figure 1 Demonstrates a significantly infected specimen.
Figure 2: Left: Infected seeds, “tombstones”
Right: Infected vs healthy colouring (Schmale, 2003).
Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Crop Profile for Wheat in Canada. Apr. 2005. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/collection_2009/agr/A118-10-16-2005E.pdf>.
Canada. Government of Manitoba. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives. Province of Manitoba – Province Du Manitoba. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/diseases/fac12s00.html>.
Schmale, D. G., and G. C. Bergstrom. “Fusarium Head Blight.” The Plant Health Instructor 10.1094 (2003). Welcome to APSnet. 2003. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/intropp/lessons/fungi/ascomycetes/Pages/Fusarium.aspx>.
United States of America. USDA. Foreign Agricultural Service. USDA. 4 Oct. 2004. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://www.fas.usda.gov/remote/canada/can_wha.htm>.