Muddin' and storm dodging keep winter wheat tour lively

Muddin' and storm dodging keep winter wheat tour lively

Traveling dirt roads after 1.5 inches of rain takes skill; sharing time, knowledge and passion for growing winter wheat shows generous spirit

When participants of the Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour made reports at the end of Day 2 in Wichita, I took my chance as car spokesperson to tease Scott County wheat grower Rick Horton, who was our driver.

Horton took us on a bit of adventure in muddin' in order to check out some demonstration plots, a field of foundation seed and a field of certified seed a bit off the beaten path.

Related: Tour sees Kansas winter wheat harvest of 288.5 million bushels

GAME FOR TV: Rick Horton, who drove "Green Car 6" on the second day of the Kansas Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour, heads back to his truck, yardstick in hand, after completing an interview with a Wichita television station. By the time Horton's team made it to Wichita and checked in at the meeting room, tornado sirens were blaring.

Much later in the day, we made a stop near Cheney to give a KWCH television crew a chance to learn a little about what we were doing and grab some footage of wheat tour samplers at work -- even though and tornado watch was in effect and thunderstorms were building up all around us. By the time we got unloaded and into the meeting room in Wichita, tornado sirens were blaring.

I teased Horton about his "mad mudding" skills, demonstrated by his ability to fishtail down a muddy road and stay out of the ditch at the same time he explained his automated soil moisture profiling sensors. Not to mention willingness to stand under a supercell to accommodate TV.

The truth is, as a journalist, I'm grateful to Rick Horton and to other farmers out there like him.

Horton certainly has plenty to do this time of year. He operates a wheat seed sales and cleaning operation with his two brothers. Together, the three are transitioned into full management of the family farming business, taking over from their dad, growing wheat, sorghum and corn, both dryland and irrigated.

He took three days out of his schedule to be one of 21 drivers who helped guide, educate and entertain 92 tour participants, some of whom had never seen a field of wheat before, as they counted heads in a foot of row, scouted for disease and insect pressure and asked endless questions about the Kansas wheat crop.

The ag industry is fortunate to have young men like Horton return to farming after completing their education. It is doubly lucky to find one willing to share his knowledge and his time, not only with the industry professionals who made the tour, but with the public at large through interviews with reporters on the tour and along the route.

Thanks, Rick, and thanks to all the other drivers, researchers and educators, especially my first-day driver Ernie Minton, associate dean of research at K-State, who provided transportation and education on this year's tour.

And thanks, Rick, for the muddin' adventure, the entertainment and oh, yeah, the chocolate donuts.

Hmm, really, the chocolate donuts. If you haven't visited the convenience store in Leoti -- those donuts are worth the stop.

More in this series
Manhattan floats as Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour kicks off
All aboard the annual Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Council tour
Shocking numbers: Winter wheat crop even worse than last year
Hard Red Winter Wheat Tour Day 2 brings better news

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