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Soft Red Winter Special Edition Harvest Report 2024


By Julia Debes, Kansas Wheat


This is day 6 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 widespread rains shutting down much of the hard red winter wheat areas this week, parts of eastern Kansas were still able to make progress on harvest. Today’s report focuses on soft red winter (SRW) wheat, which makes up only about five percent of Kansas’ wheat production. SRW wheat is typically lower in protein than hard red winter (HRW) wheat and tends to have higher yields.

In some areas of the state, like parts of northeast Kansas and far southeastern Kansas, SRW wheat is planted because the climate is more suitable for it than HRW, which makes up the majority of the state’s wheat acreage. 

Jay Armstrong is one of those producers in northeastern Kansas who plants SRW. He was one of the few in the state who was happy with last year’s harvest, and he expects this year’s crop to be even better. After starting harvest eight days ahead of normal, he anticipates an average yield of 80 to 100 bushels per acre, a little above average for his operation. He did apply fungicide to his wheat crop, noting if he had not sprayed, he would be a lot more worried about head scab this year, especially for wheat planted after corn. 

“Good weather in March helped,” he said. “There’s usually too much rain that comes through our area in March, but this year, the rain stayed off.” 

Armstrong is hoping the rain continues to stay away through harvest, but he reiterated that the rains can come as much as they like for the rest of the summer, particularly to benefit double-cropped soybeans. An earlier start of harvest meant he will get those soybeans in the ground sooner, adding he also cuts his wheat at 15 to 16 percent to give the double-crop extra time to flourish. 

SRW grain marketing is different than for HRW. Armstrong explained he only has two months to market his SRW wheat and get it to buyers in Kansas City. He reported there is currently a 70-cent basis this year, compared to around 20-cent basis last year. 

One county to the south of Armstrong, Alex Noll has high hopes for his wheat crop this year. This is his second year adding wheat into the rotation for his operation near Winchester in Jefferson County, which he said has worked out in his favor. 

SRW wheat is a good fit for his location in the state compared to HRW with more resiliency for the local climate and environment. Noll expects to average more than 100 bushels per acre with fields planted to AgriMAXX 513, all of which will be delivered to the Kansas City market. He did not report much variability in fields and plans to double-crop fields to soybeans after finishing harvest. 

He is new to planting wheat, so doesn’t have a baseline for a “normal” year, but he is expected to apply the management lessons he has learned from growing corn and adapting them to a new crop. 

“I find it easier to learn something if you have no previous knowledge about it,” Noll said. “It makes me more open-minded to learn and try something new, compared to something I have done before, where I can get attached to those ways and may be more hesitant to change it.”

The other dominant geography for SRW wheat in Kansas is in the southeastern corner of the state. Along the border with Missouri, harvest in Crawford County started around June 7, according to Russ Smith, general manager of the McCune location of CoMark Equity. He reported the location has taken in close to 500,000 bushels of SRW wheat. He anticipates growers will finish up in the next week and the elevator will have between 600,000 and 700,000 bushels in the bin. 

Test weights are averaging 58 to 60 pounds per bushel with yields above 100 bushels per acre. Early on, the elevator detected traces of fusarium head blight (FHB). 

“Quality doesn’t seem to be as good as last year’s exceptional Kansas SRW crop,” Smith said. “We got so much rain in our area during grain fill, the wheat really took a toll during that critical point of growth.”

Two counties west and on the border with Oklahoma, Richard Felts farms near Coffeyville and Liberty in Montgomery County. Rains also hit hard there, but he said his SRW crop has been resilient and able to withstand hail that accompanied the moisture. 

Felts reported the wheat came on fast early in the growing season but did not maintain that rapid pace as it matured like he thought it would. He double top-dressed his wheat in February and feels strongly about this year’s return on investment for applying fungicide. He expects average yields will fall between 75 and 106 bushels per acre with average test weights of 57 to 58 pounds per bushel. 

“We seemed to hit things at the right times this year,” Felts said. “The window was short, but we got things to fall in place in our favor.” 

Felts double-crops all of his wheat back to soybeans, noting a new soybean crushing plant in the area will add incentives for even more planted acres for the fall crop, Felts said he understands the importance of keeping wheat in his rotation, particularly the additional conservation benefits of planting wheat like anchoring critical topsoil. 

“It’s an excellent crop to conserve the soil and land, while also having economic incentives, but also hold the soil in place in the wintertime,” he said.

Strong breezy weather with a return to warmer temperatures is drying up the fields that received rainfall earlier in this week. While appreciating a short break in the summertime sprint, Kansas producers are anxious to get back in the combine cab and continue cutting this year’s wheat crop. Watch for the official crop progress report and updates from the field in the next edition of the Kansas wheat harvest report, scheduled for Monday, June 24.  

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.