Average Annual Precipitation: 8–12 inches
Cropping System: Primarily soft white and hard red spring wheat, with occasional winter wheat when conditions allow. Small amounts of dryland alfalfa (500 acres) and forage grains (124-250 acres).
Watch the companion video, The Stripper Header: Ron and Andy Juris, introducing Ron and Andy Juris and describing the major benefits and challenges they have experienced using a stripper header.
Ron and Andy Juris are third and fourth generation farmers in an operation that began in 1930. Together, this father and son team farm about 4,800 acres on the western fringe of the Horse Heaven Hills in Bickleton, WA. The farm has a short growing season due to its location on a high plateau (3,000 feet), and is in one of the driest wheat-producing regions in the world (Schillinger and Young 2014). Shallow silt loam soils (30 to 36 inches) further limit available soil moisture and present a high risk of erosion (Figure 1). Average annual precipitation is quite variable across their farm, ranging from 12 inches near the town of Bickleton down to 8 inches or less in fields that are further to the east.
To cope with these challenges, the Jurises have adopted a range of creative strategies and a unique farming perspective. Among recent changes, they have purchased a lower disturbance drill that can penetrate high residue levels, and a stripper header for their combine. The stripper header utilizes stainless steel “fingers” that rotate in a backwards direction in front of an auger, while the combine moves forward. Instead of cutting the wheat plant, the stripper header catches the heads of wheat and strips the kernels off, throwing them into the auger. This harvest method leaves almost all crop residues standing in the field (Figure 2). In contrast, a traditional header cuts the wheat, threshes the grain, and leaves the cut straw on the ground.