Sage: High Moisture and Sawfly

Fort Benton, Mont.- Slowly but surely we are cutting away here in Fort Benton, but we have run into a few issues: one that we have seen the entire summer and a new issue involving insects.

The first issue is higher moisture.  We have been cutting everyday, it’s just a matter of how long we can cut and when we can start.  It doesn’t help that the days have been overcast and cool either.  The past week has felt more like treading water than anything else, but we are getting some work done even if it isn’t at the pace we were at earlier in the summer.  It finally warmed up today and a ton of wheat dried out quickly.

The next issue we are having is one I kind of already talked about, Sawfly.  It’s a problem that is very prevalent in north central Montana, and can truly destroy a good crop.  It is when a wasp like insect lays a larva in the stem of the wheat during the growing stage.  As the wheat matures, so does the larva and by the time the wheat has fully matured, the stem is very brittle and even a small wind can knock it over.  With the high winds in northern Montana, it can literally lay an entire field flat on the ground.  When that happens it is extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to get the entire crop off the ground.  The only way to effectively control Sawfly is to swath the crop a week to 10 days before harvesting.  There are some solid stem varieties of wheat that can help, but the little bugs still manage to infiltrate the stems. After it has been swathed, the harvesters then come in with pick-up headers and pick up the swath.

If it is a light crop it is easy to pick up the swath.  The wheat dries quickly and moisture isn’t a problem.  Obviously the heavier the crop and more material, the longer it will take to dry out.  We are cutting some heavy wheat as it is averaging 55 to 60 bushels per acre.  On top of everything else, we are hauling to the farmer’s bins that are on the property, so it needs to be dryer than what the elevator would take it at.

By the weekend we should be back to straight cutting, as we should finish this job up.  Make sure to check out the video of us using the pick-up headers!

Sawfly damage

Part of the wheat falling down due to sawfly damage

Picking up swaths

Picking up the swaths instead of straight cutting the wheat

Picking up swaths

Coming up on some down wheat that wasn’t swathed.


Dad showing the difference between a Sawfly infected stem (LEFT) and one that isn’t (RIGHT)

Sage Sammons can be reached at All Aboard 2010 Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop

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