The Ins and Outs of Wheat Harvest
Four Important Facts You Should Know
When you’re sitting down to eat your bagel with cream cheese in the morning, you’re probably not thinking about how your meal got to your plate before you rush out the door to start your day. The truth is many Alberta wheat farmers worked hard to get you that delicious bagel! As harvest continues throughout the province, we’re sharing fun facts about wheat harvest that you might not know.
1. Harvest time (and seeding) varies by location—even in the same province!
The timing of seeding, and ultimately harvest, is different depending on location. It takes about 90-100 days for wheat seeds to reach full maturity, so the later the farmer plants, the later harvest will be. Central Alberta farmers begin planting in April and harvest starts in August. In more northern parts of the province, seeding can take place through May and is harvested in early September.
2. Weather can greatly impact the timing and bounty of wheat harvest.
We all know how unpredictable Canadian weather can be! The weather throughout the year can impact when wheat is harvested and how much of the crop is useable. For example, large rain or snow events can delay harvest because the wheat seeds need to be at a certain moisture level to harvest. If the kernel’s moisture level is still too high, it may need to be dried using a grain dyer to get it to the correct moisture content.
Dry summers, on the other hand, can cause stunted growth of crops and therefore hurt the farmers’ opportunities of having high yields come harvest time. Many regions in Canada, including in Alberta, had to navigate through tough drought conditions this year and their wheat crop won’t be as bountiful as they’re used to. We’re so thankful for all the hard work they’ve put in despite battles with dry weather this year.
3. See those big machines out in the field in late summer? That’s a combine harvester.
How do farmers “collect” all that wheat, anyway? Combines help them to do the job! We only consume the top of the wheat plant where the grain is located and not the rest of the stalk. Because only some of the plant is edible, the combine uses rotating blades, wheels, sieves and elevators to cut thresh and clean the grains that are to be used in your favourite breads, pastas and wheat dishes. The residue is chopped into smaller pieces and spread across the field out the back of the combine as it’s still moving. The grain doesn’t stay in the combine, though—it’s taken through something called an auger into the grain cart driving alongside the combine to be taken off the field.
4. Harvest isn’t done in one day!
Many Alberta wheat farmers have hundreds or thousands of acres to harvest in a season—that’s a lot to cover in a short amount of time! Between battling the weather and finding enough sunlight hours in the day, farmers work hard for weeks on end during harvest season to ensure their crop gets to the grain bins in time.
If you see a combine out in the field this harvest season, you’ll know that farmer is working hard to get you your morning bagel. Do you have other questions about harvest? Check out our Ask a Farmer page or reach out on Twitter @LifesIngredient or Instagram @lifessimpleingredient—we’re always happy to answer questions about Life’s Simple Ingredient!