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Final Kansas Wheat Harvest Report

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By Julia Debes, Kansas Wheat

 

This is day 13 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.

With harvest down to the final few days, this will be the last report for the 2024 Kansas wheat harvest. Rain delays continue to stretch out the season, but producers welcome the moisture as they turn their attention to planting fall crops and managing the weeds coming up rapidly in wheat stubble.

Moisture over the weekend continues to prevent harvest from wrapping up in northwest Kansas, but no one is complaining about the beneficial moisture for fall crops, according to Jeanne Falk Jones, Multi-County agronomist with the Northwest Research-Extension Center in Colby. 

Area producers started test cutting after Father’s Day and harvest kicked into full gear the following weekend. The end of harvest is now in sight – maybe three days more if the skies stay clear. This last push feels more like last year’s harvest – foggy mornings and tough wheat that can’t be cut until late in the day. 

Yields are all over the board – from 20 to 100 bushels per acre – across the northwest region, not surprising given the challenges to get stands established last fall. Weather during the grain fill period was much more favorable with moisture, fewer triple-digit days and especially cooler night temperatures. 

As a result, Falk-Jones reported average test weights between 58 to 62 pounds per bushel and proteins between 9 and 11.5 percent, depending on field fertility and conditions during grain fill. 

“Everybody is pleasantly surprised on how good our wheat has been,” she said, adding that the wheat looked pretty tough for the majority of the growing season. “Now, not every field has been that way.”  

Falk-Jones did investigate a fair amount of wheat disease this year, including Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus, Triticum mosaic and High Plains disease, all of which are transmitted by the wheat curl mite. She sent several samples off to the diagnostic labs in Manhattan to determine which virus was on the rise after seeing the characteristic yellow leaves in fields planted to varieties with decent resistance to WSMV. The result was a bit of uptake in Triticum mosaic. The earlier the infection of viral disease, the more impacts on yields, but a good number of fields already had yield potential set when symptoms showed at heading. 

She attributes the uptick in disease pressure to severe hail last year after kernels were formed. As a result, there were more shattered kernels in the field and continual flushes of volunteer wheat after catching little rain showers. While folks tried hard to control volunteer wheat, even kernels left in wheels tracks were enough to harbor the disease vector – wheat curl mites – over the fall.

In Sherman County, Brian Linin has about five or six days left to cut near Goodland, after starting harvest on June 26 – three to five days earlier than normal and three weeks earlier than last year. 

Expectations were low after the wheat did not have good stand last fall, thinking this year would be a repeat of the last. Blowing fields this spring added to the anticipated disappointment. Linin noted he went ahead and applied fungicide and did not see a lot of rust or Wheat Streak Mosaic virus, but controlling volunteer wheat will be essential to prevent the spread into next year’s crop. 

While the cooler days and nights during grainfill helped the wheat do better than expected, this year will still be about 20 percent below an average yield. Linin reported yields on dryland wheat ranging from 30 to 70 bushels per acre, with most in the 40s. Test weights were averaging 58.5 to 59 pounds per bushel, but this weekend’s rain may cause them to lose a bit. Protein ranges from 12 to 14 percent. 

“Growing wheat has a lot of value for our farm,” Linin said. “Wheat stubble once again has proven its value. Not only is wheat a good cash crop, if you are able to get a good price with forward contracting, but the importance of the stubble to plant into makes such a huge difference on fall crops. There are a lot of factors that going into profitability.”

In Smith County in north-central Kansas, Bryce Wiehl finished wheat harvest near Smith Center on Monday, July 8, after a week-long weather delay on his last 100 acres. He’s not complaining about the rain, which will benefit double-cropped soybeans on all his now-harvested wheat fields.

The wet conditions are in stark contrast to how the growing season started last fall, when Wiehl harvested bone-dry soybeans last September and October then drilled wheat in an absolute desert. The good fields were barely 50 percent up when the area had a rare rain in December that brought 1.5 to 1.75 inches of moisture. The wheat had snow on it through most of the winter, emerging from dormancy in February. Wiehl noted he had more moisture this past winter than the last seven years.

After starting on Monday, June 24, harvest is above average with a final farm yield of 65 bushels per acre and average test weights of 58 to 59 pounds per bushel. He noted other producers reported test weights clear up to 63 to 64 pounds per bushel.

Last year, his wheat averaged seven bushels per acre, well behind the 38 to 39 bushel-per-acre average he aims for with wheat behind soybeans. While the moisture and the bushels are welcome, the commodity prices are half what they were, driven more by investment funds than fundamentals.

“It was a wheat year; we caught early spring rains, and the wheat will do what it will do,” he said. “But it looked like a total train wreck in the fall.”

In southwest Kansas, wheat harvest is 98 percent complete in Finney County, down to the last few mud holes, according to Jeff Boyd, CEO/general manager of Garden City Co-op. Wheat harvest started earlier than the normal on June 20 this year, meaning many folks were finished up and able to enjoy the July 4th holiday weekend. 

The wheat came in dry this year with moisture at 9 to 13 percent, solid test weights between 60 and 62 pounds per bushel and average protein for the area. Yields were all over the place depending on cropping rotation. Wheat after fallow did really well, thanks to the additional moisture, while wheat planted after corn or milo was not as good. Irrigated and dryland yields were comparable. 

“No year is the same and that keeps getting reiterated,” he said. “The volatility we see goes from one extreme to the other.” 

Taking out the last couple drought years, Boyd reported the cooperative’s overall take is back up to the five and 10-year average. In general, folks are surprised and happy with their harvest, although he noted some area producers were hit by hailstorms. 

“It wasn’t until that wheat was really drying down that it really started to look good,” Boyd said. “That wheat in the field just looked thicker the more mature it got.” 

The draw area for Garden City Co-op extends down to Hooker, Oklahoma, where substantial five to 10 inches of rain will continue to affect test weights and delay harvest, but Boyd said no one is going to scare the rain away. 

As harvest finishes, he noted the next priority for producers is going to be managing the weeds coming in fast into the wheat stubble. For the elevator, Boyd explained that with a thin international market, domestic mills in Kansas and California are driving the final destination for those bushels – along with increasing demand from the wheat gluten plants in Phillipsburg and Russell.

Look for a final round-up and quality reports as the data is crunched from the 2024 wheat harvest. Producers are also encouraged to start controlling weeds and volunteer wheat now as the much-appreciated moisture will bring plenty of green to harbor wheat curl mites – the vector that will foster WSMV infections next harvest.

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 Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share your harvest story and photos.

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