Production Blog

Kernels of Memory

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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This soft red winter wheat field in central Illinois is filling out nicely this year and brings back memories. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- I have a gluten addiction. It started early in life. Greening wheat was the first sure sign winter was breaking dormancy on our central Illinois farm. Green turned to gold at that perfect point of summer when the noonday sun begged for a field lunch spread across a truck tailgate.

Baling straw was nearly a community event. Crews dined with our family and took lemonade breaks after stacking bales in the hot, dusty mow under the giant maple in our front yard.

Even our breakfasts celebrated the season. Dad would glean a pound or so from the first cutting and sort the wheat from the chaff to be boiled until each berry burst into a soft, chewy cereal. We topped it off with a little sugar and milk. Mmmmmm ... I still bake homemade bread (sometimes grinding my own wheat) several times a week.

I mentioned these memories to the farmers riding with me on the Kansas Hard Red Winter Wheat tour last week. One discreetly suggested that I was telling my age and also the size of our wheat operation. It's true -- wheat was a minor crop for us, but perhaps the memories are a better indication of changing times. Larger farm sizes, more intensive practices and the constant barrage of dings from monitors and all sorts of hand-held devices leave us little time for leisurely lunches. A slice of breakfast pizza and Mountain Dew from the local Casey's is a more likely breakfast scenario, according to the Kansas wheat farmers I talked to during the tour.

Which brings me back to reality and going on record as to my prediction for the Kansas crop. Prior to the announcement of the final tour estimate, scouts were challenged to make their own predictions as to how the crop will finish out. Putting a guess on the line cost $1 each and the closest guess gets the pot.

After three days of pulling samples across the state, the tour estimated Kansas production at 382.4 million bushel for 2016. Last Monday, USDA pegged Kansas 2016 production at 352.6 million bushel. My estimate was 397.0 million bushel -- and yes, I saw some good wheat.

There's still a lot time and weather between my estimate and when the combines roll. However, I've already made up my mind as to what I'll do when I win the wheat lottery -- I'll treat a couple of those Kansas farmers to a decent breakfast or lunch.

Pamela Smith can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN



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