Burning Down the Wheat

Heather_Barnes
Senior Reader
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My Farmer and the guys have been picking our wheat the last few weeks.  I really love this time of year for a couple of reasons:

 

1.  We got married just before wheat was picked and my bouquet was wheat from his field.

 

2. We get to spend lots of family time in the combine.  In fact, it's become tradition that the three of us spend Father's Day riding in the combine together.  Yes, it was on a Sunday but when the weather is good and the crop is ready, farmers have to roll.

 

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Anyway, I'm getting off topic.  After the wheat is harvested we go behind the combine (the machine used to harvest wheat) and plant soybeans.  We plant no-till soybeans which means we do not till, or disk up, the land in between harvesting wheat and planting soybeans. 

 

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This year the wheat straw was really thick.  We don't bale the straw like some other farmers do so it just lies in the field until it decomposes.  Not this year.  . 

 

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This year My Farmer and the guys burned the wheat fields.  I thought they did this so the sunlight could get to the soybean seeds so they would grow.  Nope.  That is incorrect. I would not win Jeopardy with that answer.  Good thing I asked My Farmer.

 

Fields are burned to get rid of the straw so the planter can plant all the seeds at the same depth.  Why is this important?  First, seeds of any kind come with a planting depth recommendation.  Even the flower seeds I use at home in the yard.  If planted to deep, the seed may not get enough light.  If not planted deep enough it may not sprout.

 

As My Farmer explained to me, if you have a clump of wheat straw 1 inch think and another 5 inches thick the planter won't plant the soybeans the same depth in both of those spots.  Burning also makes the nutrients in the straw available to the soybeans faster than if we waited for it to break down on its own.  So, we burn.  After we get a burning permit of course.

 

I got to ride along for the wheat burning.  I felt like I was on safari bumping around in the back of the truck except I was taking pictures of wheat on fire and not elephants or lions. 

 

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First they use a disc hare to plow the land beside the woods so the fire won't jump into the trees. 

 

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Then we get a clump of straw on the end of a pitchfork, light it on fire, and drive slowly around the field edge, dragging the burning straw along the ground.  If you drive slow enough, straw in the field will catch fire. 

 

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We drive around the edge of the whole field, lighting it as we go.

 

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Then we get in the tractor, which is pulling the disk hare, and ride around the field looking for any spots of fire that may be thinking about jumping into the woods or over the ditch.  That's My Farmer driving.

 

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Those spots are disked in and the fire goes out.  I must apologize for the dirty tractor windows.

 

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After the fire dies out, the planter comes in and this year's soybeans are planted.  I took this picture a few hours after we burned the field. There are soybean seeds in those rows. I know because I dug around to check.  Soon, the beans will sprout, starting new life in the remnants of old.