Letter from America: 'Wheat and canola as far as the eye can see'
Getting ready to hit the road in Kansas
Published 20/05/2015 | 02:30
Harvesting the 60m tonnes of wheat produced in the US every year is a mammoth undertaking that I am experiencing firsthand this year.
I am currently undertaking an internship harvest trail program through Ohio State University, which has placed me working with a custom harvester based in a Kiowa, Kansas, popultion 1000.
Agriculture is by far the biggest industry here, and there are crops of wheat and canola stretching to the horizon in all directions.
My host company is a family run business called BT Harvesting. They operate with a crew of five, plus the owner, Anders, and his wife, Amanda.
The crew is made up of two Danish, one Spanish and two Irish workers.
Most of the my current workload consists of preparing machinery for the season and getting a Commercial Drivers Licence (CDL).
This is the equivalent to the HGV licence in Ireland.
Each crew member requires a CDL, as all grain haulage and equipment transportation is carried out using articulated trucks. Getting my CDL required passing a theory test, a skills test (various reversing activities with the truck and trailer), and an actual driving test.
The BT Harvesting outfit consists of two brand new John Deere S670 combines, accompanied by 40' flex draper headers. Grain carting duties are comfortably handled by a new 8270 John Deere tractor, hooked up to a 30t grain cart.
As all the equipment is new from the factory, there is a certain amount of work to be completed to get each machine ready for harvest.
On the combines, this mainly consists of building the reels for the headers, spacing out the front wheels and rear axle for loading onto its transportation trailer - and fitting bin extensions and dual wheels on the front.
The tractor required duals all around, and the installation of two way radios, and a weighing scales and printer for the grain cart within the cab.
All the trucks and trailers in the fleet got a complete service, down to painting over the scratches from last season. Before the trucks roll out of town, they will be polished from top to bottom.
When this fleet hits the road, it will stand out.
Harvesting was due to begin this week in Texas, but unusually cold weather along with some tornado damage has pushed the start out to next week.
I will be updating readers in a few weeks' time. In the meantime, you can follow our crew's progress on the BT Harvesting Facebook page.