Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wheat Growing Terms


Following up on the December 19th posting: Some Clarification, here is some additional terminology and special vocabulary used in wheat growing. 

Lodging is the tendency of wheat to bow down when the weight of the maturing grain is too much for the plant to hold erect.  Weather can add to this effect.  If lodging is too severe, much of the grain is missed by mechanical reaping.
Lodging Ripe Wheat

Shattering is a characteristic of wild wheat, which releases its seed as it matures.  Some of the earliest breeding efforts, continuing to the present, endeavor to reduce shattering in commercial cultivars, inducing the grain to remain on the plant so it can be harvested rather than lost on the ground.  One of the older cultivars planted in our test bed, Gold Coin, is notorious for shattering, trying to perpetuate itself by broadcasting its seed instead of holding onto it so we can grind it and make bread.

Vernalization is the acquisition of a plant’s ability to flower or bear seed in the spring by exposure to the prolonged low temperatures of winter. After vernalization, some wheat requires additional seasonal cues (like longer daylight) or weeks of growth before it produces grain.  Winter wheat goes through vernalization in regions with colder winters than Agoura Hills to ensure that reproductive development and seed production occurs in spring and summer, rather than in the chill of autumn.  Some cultivars that will not develop without a certain number of ‘chill hours’ have reduced yield in the warmer areas of Southern California.  Our plantings at Maggie’s Farm are expected to grow through a successful vernalization.

Tillers and Tillering is a branching out process in many small grains like wheat.  Sometimes called stooling, the branches emerge from the main stem about the time the 4th leaf emerges.  Initially relying on the main stem for nutrition, tillers soon establish a system of roots and grow as identical plants, along side the main plant.  A publication from UC Davis reports that primary tillers can also have tillers of their own, giving plants the potential to produce more than 50 tillers.  (The whole bunch of tillers on one plant is called a stool.)  Usually only two to four tillers survive to produce fertile spikes.  You can see that tillers can double or quadruple the yield.
Sonora Wheat Tillering Well

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