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Agriculture 101
Dr. Victor Martin

The drought monitor report as of Tuesday, May 28 shows an intensification of drought in our area with parts of Barton, Stafford, Pawnee and Rush counties now in extreme drought. Most of our area is firmly entrenched in severe drought. The eastern third of the state continues faring the best and mostly out of dry conditions. The doesn’t include any rainfall since Tuesday. The six to ten-day outlook (June 4 to 8) indicates a 50 to 60% chance of likely above normal temperatures and 33 to 40% chance of leaning above normal for precipitation. The eight to 14-day outlook (June 6 to 12) indicates a normal to slightly below normal temperatures and normal precipitation. As the wheat to be harvested is rapidly maturing, partially due to the overall lack of moisture, these warm temperatures will move things along.

Weather permitting, wheat harvest is just around the corner. Corn is in the ground and grain sorghum and soybeans in progress. You will hear, see, or read reports about test weights, bushels per acre, grain moisture, and dockage for example. Almost everyone in the area recognizes these and other terms but many don’t really know what they mean. Today, as we wait for wheat harvest and hope for more rain for our summer crops and pasture, let’s take a moment to explain a few common agriculture terms.

• Bushel – A bushel is a bit weird. It’s both a volume and a weight. Originally it was four pecks or eight dry gallons. Think a bushel basket. You can still buy pecks and bushel baskets of say apples. Today we really think of it as a weight. While the rest of the world thinks SI (kilograms and metric tons per hectare) for grains, we think bushels per acre. Each grain has a standard bushel for our hard red winter and white wheat, a bushel is 60 pounds as are soybeans. Oats are 32 pounds while corn and grain sorghum are 56.

• Test Weight – When grain is taken into a facility, one measure of quality is test weight. Think of it as a density (lb/unit volume). A grain analysis computer is used today to compare the actual density of the grain to the standard described above. Wheat’s standard here is 60 lb/bushel. If the sample is much below 60, say 57 or 56, the load of grain will be docked, “penalized” and a price deduction is taken. On the other hand, if your wheat comes in at 62 or 63 pounds, you seldom receive a premium.

• Grain Moisture – Another indication of quality, and more importantly keeping the grain in condition is the moisture grain. Too wet and it can spoil, require drying, and leads to more pest problems. Too dry and it can crack during handling. And actual bushels delivered is a function of the weight and adjusting it to a standard moisture. Each grain has a standard. This also allows a producer to compare between fields and years.

• Finally, dockage – a grain sample is taken, weighed, run through a machine with different hole size opening sieves. Each fraction can be weighed and from this it’s determined how much to penalize, dock, the load. It can be weed seed, plant material, cracked seed, etc.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207, or