Western Kansas

By Richard C. Snell

Barton County Extension Agent

Each year, there always is at least one hot topic among farmers; this year, it has been white wheat.

Last year, it was blending varieties, before that it was cross-drilling wheat and another year it was mixing the seed and fertilizer together.

I have written about white wheat in previous columns, but I will just review quickly. Why should we even consider white wheat? Well, long term, I am not sure you will be able to sell red wheat, or if you can, it may be for a low price. You see, a large amount of our wheat goes to the export market. For the most part, the foreign mills do not like red wheat. They can buy white wheat, from Australia and other countries. So, basically, we only sell red wheat, when they can't buy anymore white. Yes, domestically, we still use a lot of red wheat. But if you have ever tasted bread made from white wheat, it tastes better to most people.

Why is there a preference for white? You can get a larger amount of flour from white wheat, as opposed to red. Foreign mills want to get every ounce of flour they can. Second , there is a purity associated with white color in bread. Most children do not like to eat whole wheat bread, from red flour, but from white they don't know the difference. The red bran color is a problem. If you get red specks in white flour, they think it is dirty.

Another reason for the white wheat demand overseas is for noodles and pasta. Most all noodles or pasta is cream colored or white. So, we are trying to develop wheats that are appealing to those uses as well. The whites tend to be more of a multi-purpose wheat.

Should you plant white wheat this year? Not unless you are willing to go through some extra work. You have to treat white wheat like a separate crop, because there are large penalties and discounts if you get mixed wheat between red and white. This means you have to keep your white wheat several hundred feet away from red to avoid cross pollination. This also means you need to take the same precautions as a certified seed grower. You will need to vacuum your combines, trucks and drills between red and white operations. Before doing anything, find out where you can deliver it.

There are benefits for the grower. I think, if there is to be a premium, it will be in the first three years or so. So, getting in on the ground floor should pay. The yields of Trego have been better than most of the red wheats, so you could benefit both ways--yield and price.

It happens every year, Barton countians can expect to be confronted with more pesky blackbird-starling roosts this fall and winter.

I have seen some pretty heavy damage from birds feeding in grain sorghum already.

A neighborhood with a history of bird problems should gear up now for another dispersal effort. Roost sites usually are in groves of trees during hours of darkness. Roosts of more than a million birds are not uncommon in Kansas. Their presence can pose potential health, economic, and nuisance problems. Barton County is kind of considered the bird capital, because of Cheyenne Bottoms.

When grain sorghum and other crops are near the ripening stage, they serve as a major food source and really get eaten, especially in the eastern part of our county. After the crops are harvested, the birds move to the cattle feedyards, in our area.

Here are the nonlethal dispersal options available to neighborhoods or farms plagued by bird roosts:

--Recorded distress and alarm calls: These can be used singly or with other scare devices. Records or tapes should be played back on mobile sound equipment in the roost for 10 to 15 seconds every minute, as birds attempt to enter a roost or continuously when most birds are in the roost.

--Gas-operated exploders: These devices, operated on acetylene or propane gas, produce intermittent explosions. They should be placed in the roost and set to fire at about 30-second intervals. They should be moved within the roost every few minutes during the scaring operation. Some people leave the exploders in the roost after dispersal to discourage the birds from returning.

--Exploding shotgun shells: Known as shell crackers or scare cartridges, these are 12-gauge shotgun shells containing a firecracker that is projected into the air about 300 feet before exploding. The shells should be fired so they explode in front of or under birds attempting to enter the roost site.

--Bombs: Noise bombs, whistle bombs and racket bombs are fired from a 15mm flare pistol. Noise bombs travel about 75 feet before exploding. Whistle bombs are similar to noise bombs, but do not explode. Racket bombs make noise in flight, but do not explode.

--Visual scaring devices: Flashing light, shiny streamers, owl decoys and helium-filled balloons have been used to frighten birds. They produce better results when used with noisy scare devices.

--Habitat manipulation: Thin roost vegetation, thereby making it less attractive to birds, often produces longer lasting results than scaring devices.

Up until a couple of years ago, some producers used bird resistant grain sorghum. However, there has been such an outcry from terminal grain companies that sell it for poultry feed that they heavily discounted or completely refused high "tannic acid'' or bird resistant grain sorghum. Thus, the seed companies have basically quit selling these hybrids.

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