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Winter wheat and the Hessian fly free date

Raking in wheat seedsAlthough I left laying pellets to tide our chickens over, they clearly got a bit hungry while we were out of town for four days.  They had ignored the buckwheat and beans before we left, but when we returned I saw that our flock had eaten up every seed and scratched the ground into a crumbly texture perfect for planting.

I shut the flock back into the larger paddock and planted our winter wheat in the newly bare ground.  The combination of frost and chickens had broken down even the stems of the previous crop so that I could easily rake the wheat seeds into the soil.

I would have liked to plant our wheat earlier, but it's very important to pay attention to the Hessian fly free date when seeding wheat for grain.  This little insect burrows into leaves of young wheat before the frost, and heavily infected fields will struggle so much that you get little or no wheat harvest the next spring.  By waiting until cold weather hits to plant your wheat, you can bypass this pest.  Each part of the country has a Hessian fly free date after which it is safe to plant your grain.

Map of Hessian fly free date

This map of Hessian fly free dates from Purdue University is the best I've found, but I wonder about its accuracy here in the mountains.  I waited a few days longer than the map suggested, until a frost made me confident that Hessian flies were long gone.  If all goes well, I should be able to graze the chickens on the winter wheat in about a month, providing a bit of winter greenery in their diets, then still get grain in spring of 2011.

Our chickens live a life of luxury in their pasture with unlimited clean water from our homemade chicken waterer.


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Were you able to graze the chickens on the greens and still get a grain harvest? Have you considered a bonfils strategy of planting in summer? Are the Hessian's too aggressive for that to work?
Comment by Chris Sun Jan 11 09:46:28 2015

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime