The wheat stalks are dry and can barely support the weight
of the heads of wheat. When the heads begin to “nod”,
it’s time to cut the wheat.
is harvested by a self-propelled machine called a combine.
As the combine moves thru the field, the bars on the (somewhat
round) reel at the front of the machine gently pull the
wheat stalks toward the machine. At the point where the
bars on the reel almost touch the lower front edge of
the machine, there is a cutting bar. This cutting bar
or “sickle” has triangular blades with very
sharp edges and moves from side to side rapidly as it
cuts the wheat stalks and anything else it comes into
parts of the wheat plants that were cut off the stalk
by the “sickle” drop into an area that is
tilted downward and towards the middle of the machine.
In the center, there is an opening and the cut material
slides and is pulled toward that opening. Once it goes
thru the opening, it is carried inside the combine. The
combine uses air, shaking, and gravity to separate the
kernels (wheat seeds) from the beards, stalks, and other
pieces of the cut plants (and weeds or whatever else gets
pulled into the combine). The wheat seeds are saved and
moved into a “grain tank” on the combine.
When the grain tank gets full, the wheat seeds will be
unloaded onto a truck or grain cart.
combine uses air to blow everything else towards the rear
of the combine – everything but the wheat seeds
and things similar in size and weight that manage to move
into the grain tank. The “chaff” is the pieces
of wheat straw, the beards from the wheat head, and all
the other lightweight extra things that are easily blown
out of the combine and fall to the ground.
“strawchopper” with blades will chop up any
long pieces of wheat stalks or weeds as they fall out
of the combine. The smaller pieces will fall thru the
wheat stubble (what’s left of the wheat plants after
the heads are cut off) and be easier to work into the
soil. The smaller pieces will also decompose faster.
work for each wheat crop actually begins at least one
year in advance with the preparation of the ground, the
planting in late September or early October, the management
through the winter and spring, and all the preparation
for wheat harvest. Harvest is like the end of working
and waiting for a whole year for a paycheck that comes
only once a year. If everything goes just right, it’s
an exciting time!