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Day 5, Kansas Wheat Harvest Report

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By Julia Debes, Kansas Wheat

 

This is day 5 of the Kansas Wheat Harvest Reports, brought to you by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas Grain and Feed Association and the Kansas Cooperative Council.

Kansas wheat producers can’t seem to catch a break in the weather, kicking up swirling, dust clouds as they raced to cut wheat ahead of heavy thunderstorms and hail on Tuesday, June 18. Harvest is now progressing into areas of south central Kansas that missed the rains which benefited producers in other parts of the state — a reminder that not all are feeling a sense of recovery this season.

Moisture in the air had combines running slower on Tuesday near Larned, but the day before the Pawnee County Coop Association took in about 100,000 bushels, according to Kim Barnes, interim general manager. This year’s wheat crop suffered — hit by drought and Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus. As a result, yields are down at 15 to 40 bushels per acre, test weights are averaging 56 pounds per bushel and quality is lacking.

This is his 55th wheat harvest and Barnes said he has seen it all. This harvest is the fourth in a row to suffer from prolonged drought conditions — not breaking out of drought status for more than three days in a row for all that time.

“Out of the 55 years, this is the next to the lowest year,” he said. “I’ve never seen production this bad than the last couple of years.”

Last year, the coop took in 450,000 bushels, and as of Monday, June 17, Barnes reported the company has only taken in 341,000 bushels so far. While it’s on track to be more than last year, it’s a far cry from the coop’s high of 4 million bushels in 2016.

“We were hoping that we would see a million bushels this year, but now we’re just hoping we had more than last year,” he said.

Adding insult to injury, the wheat market has lost $1 per bushel compared to two or three weeks ago and early export demand was gobbled up by the Texas wheat crop. Even after starting 10 days early, Barnes noted producers will be cutting until the end of June, especially those who have to take extra time to control aggressive cinch bugs driven out of harvest fields into newly planted milo fields.

In eastern Kansas, Jesse Muller is having more harvest luck with a better crop in Montgomery County compared to the last few years. The operation planted solely WestBred varieties this year and Muller reported yields are averaging 40 to 70 bushels per acre with test weights averaging 62 pounds per bushel. He takes all of his wheat to the elevator in Liberty, which takes both hard and soft wheat.

“Compared to last year, everyone is seeing better than expected yields with quality staying steady,” Muller said. “Part of it comes from having a drier fall and a wet spring.”

For the entire county, Muller noted his neighbors have had some loss from both some freeze damage over the winter and hail damage from storms that rolled in the first part of June.

Harvest came later than anticipated, not due to a delay in ripening, but due to rains that kept them out of the fields. With the added moisture, Muller and his neighbors are fighting more weeds the later they stay in the fields.

Muller went through the Kansas Wheat Leadership Program in 2023, which gave him appreciation of the time it takes to get wheat genetics to the farmers’ fields.

“It’s crazy to think about the time it takes from an initial cross to getting planted in farmers’ fields and harvested,” Muller said. “The leadership program opened my eyes to everything within the industry that I can take home and can put into perspective on my operation and be thankful for what they are doing up there.”

Harvest is about halfway complete for Knopf Farms near Gypsum in Saline County after starting cutting on June 11. While there wasn’t much spring moisture, yields are better than expected, according to Justin Knopf, who said the cool, nighttime temperatures in May helped offset that lack of rainfall.

Yields are averaging 45 to 60 bushels per acre, but are wide-ranging from the 30s to 80s, depending on moisture and hail damage. He reported they are seeing good grain quality with test weights ranging from 59 to 62 pounds per bushel, but decreasing as harvest progresses. Excellent varieties include KS Providence, SY Monument and Rock Star.

While the farm will see “typical” yield averages, this is far from an average year with far more variability, due to the lack of spring rains, hail damage, freeze impacts and variety maturity. Knopf noted he was glad he applied fungicide at flag leaf because it was holding the stripe rust at bay.

Wheat harvest also started about 10 days early in McPherson County, where grower Derek Sawyer spoke with Slade Wiley with the Kansas Ag Network from the field on Tuesday, June 18. It could have been earlier, but the first good rain since January hit right when harvest should have started.

“It’s kind of ironic that we’re fighting mud when the yields are really depressed by drought,” Sawyer told the broadcaster. “But that’s the way it goes here.”

Now that he’s in the combine cab, Sawyer expects to finish up harvest by the end of the week — if there are no more rain delays. Overall, the crop appears to be of good quality with test weights hanging in about 60 pounds per bushel.

“The quality of the crop looks excellent; the yields are better than we expected,” he noted. “It’s a nice surprise to get out here and get some wheat rolling in the bin that we didn’t expect.”

Breaking down the harvest results further, however, reveals a spotty, variable crop within individual fields. Sawyer noted that going from 60-bushel wheat down to 10-bushel wheat within a single step, for no obvious rhyme or reason, is giving combine operators extra headaches as they work to set their machines and keep their headers clean.

Sawyer added that he’s reflecting on the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Turkey Red wheat in Kansas — noting that there’s no way the wheat of yesterday would have endured and made this year’s yields without the aid of the wheat breeding pipeline improving on Turkey Red’s foundation.

“You realize in years like this the impact of the research and the improvements we have done year after year,” he said. “There needs to be a lot of credit for the scientists and the breeders of wheat in Kansas because this year’s weather conditions shouldn’t have given us the yield that we’re getting.”

Rain delays will keep most of the state out of the field for the next couple of days. Stay tuned for a special edition of the Kansas Wheat harvest report focused on soft wheat production on Thursday.

The 2024 Harvest Reports are brought to you by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas Grain and Feed Association and the Kansas Cooperative Council. To follow along with harvest updates, use #wheatharvest24 on social media. Tag us at @kansaswheat on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to share your harvest story and photos.

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