Laura: Stripping wheat

Gove County, Kansas — As the lift gate of the SUV raised toward the sky, the wind speed seemed to simultaneously increase. I had seen some weather reports say that the wind would rival that of a March, spring day. That prediction seemed to be holding true.

As salad was placed on plates for an early afternoon meal, pieces of lettuce flew from the dishes like well timed fighter jets lifting off a carrier.  Luckily, a well placed squiggle of ranch was enough weight to take care of that problem. Lunch soon returned to a more manageable situation.  

A misconception I often hear about Kansas is how flat it is.  While there are some very flat spaces, it is certainly not an accurate depiction of the state as a whole. In fact, some places are quite rolling and even western Kansas has hills! The field we were on was one of those and involved a lot of tedious work around the terraces.  There were so many terraces. 

This farm is a no-till operation and prefers stripper headers, so the John Deeres were sporting a mix of blue Shelbourne and black Flacon headers on this day. 

For those who may be unfamiliar with this type of equipment, stripper headers allow more residue to remain in the field.  Residue is the name for the remaining plant parts left after harvest. In this case, the headers strip the grain from the head and leave everything else in the field. Extra plant matter in the field can be beneficial in several ways. It can help hold down the soil, preventing erosion. The remaining straw helps shield the ground from sunlight. This delays or minimizes weed germination. The residue can also help trap snowfall and keep it in place during winter storms. These are all great benefits, especially for an area with a harsh climate and limited annual precipitation.

Speaking of moisture, these fields received rainfall at just the right time this spring, which resulted in impressive yields. Final totals haven’t been tabulated on some fields at the time of this post, but it is likely we will have some fields near 70 bushels per acre average. Test weights have been hovering at 58-61 pounds.  

Will is stripping wheat.
What a big sky over this rolling field!
The crew is cutting out terraces.
A little “unload on the go” action.
Castle Rock is a famous landform in Gove County. This area was once under an ocean, and many unique fossils have been recovered in this county.

Thank you to our 2024 All Aboard Wheat Harvest sponsors: High Plains Journal, Lumivia by Corteva Agriscience, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., Merit Auctions, Kramer Seed FarmsShelbourne Reynolds, and U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. Laura can be reached at

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