All About Wheat
All About Wheat Grains of History Kansas Wheat Farm Adventures
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From Planting Through Harvest
Just as soon as the wheat has been harvested from a field, Kansas farmers begin preparing the field for planting the next year’s wheat crop. The wheat stubble (what’s left of the wheat plants after the heads have been cut off by the combine) is chopped up and mixed with the soil. This also kills any weeds which might have started growing in the wheat stubble, saving soil moisture for the next wheat crop. Working the soil also breaks up the surface of the soil so that rain can soak into the soil.
Applying fertilizer
Crops need nutrients and fertilizer, just like people might take vitamins to grow up strong and healthy. Farmers test the soil to determine just which nutrients are needed in each field. The nutrients needed for the next crop to be grown in that field will be added to the soil. At the same time that nutrients and fertilizer are being applied in a field, any growing weeds may be killed. The weeds steal moisture from the soil that is needed for the next crop.
Applying fertilizer
The liquid nutrients and fertilizer run from the big tanks thru plastic tubing down to tubes attached to the blades on this implement called an “undercutter”. The undercutter has big V-shaped blades that slide under the surface of the soil, slicing off the roots of weeds without chopping up the surface of the soil. Since the blades are placed into the ground at the same depth that the roots of the new wheat plants will be, the fertilizer and nutrients are being placed into the “root zone”. Once the small plants start growing, they will have the necessary nutrients to grow strong and healthy.
Drilling wheat
September is wheat planting time in Kansas. Wheat is planted with a drill, which is pulled by a tractor. A drill makes “furrows” - opening up the center of the furrow, dropping a line of seeds into the opening, and then covering the seeds up with a thin layer of soil. The soil mounded slightly on each side of the furrow helps protect the tiny plants from strong winds and any moisture collects in the bottom of the furrow – right where the seeds have been placed. All the furrows must have seeds so when there’s not enough seed left to fill the drill, it may be necessary to move the seeds around inside the drill’s seed boxes so that every furrow gets seed.
Checking Wheat
Winter wheat sprouts and grows some during the fall but it goes dormant during the winter. Even during the winter, it is necessary to check the wheat to make sure the plants are healthy and not being damaged by weeds, insects, or diseases.
Checking Wheat
Wheat must be harvested at just the right time. The stalks of the wheat plants must be dry so they can be easily cut by the combine. The wheat seeds must be dry so they can be stored without spoiling. The outer coating of each seed must be hard enough to protect the seed from damage when the grain is being shaken out of the heads inside the combine or being moved from place to place.
However, when the wheat is ready to cut, the wheat plants are dead and drying up. This means that the stalks are brittle and can be easily broken or blown over. Since everything is dry, the seeds themselves can be shook by wind or rain and fall out onto the ground. This is called “shattering” and the seeds cannot be recovered and sold. When the wheat heads begin to “nod”, it is time to cut the wheat.
Wheat Harvest
The Kansas wheat harvest starts in June at the southern border of Kansas, usually in the area south of Wichita or to the west. From there, the wheat harvest spreads north and west in the larger wheat-growing areas of the state. Wheat harvest in Kansas usually ends in early July at the Nebraska border and in mid-July at the Colorado border.
Combine header

Wheat is harvested with a self-propelled machine called a “combine”. At the front of the combine, a large reel turns and pushes the heads of the wheat plants into a “sickle”. The “sickle” cuts the heads off the plants and they are pulled into the combine. The combine shakes and beats the wheat seeds out of the heads and separates the kernels (wheat seeds) from all the other plant materials. The kernels are moved into a grain tank on the combine while all the other “extra” stuff is blown out the back of the combine and spread across the field.

Wheat harvest is finished for this year but it’s time to start all over again if the field will be planted to wheat in just 2-3 months.