What are the wheat harvest expectations?
Current estimates from United States Department of Agriculture/National Ag Statistics Service peg the 2017 crop at 289.8 million bushels, with an average yield of 42 bushels per acre.
In May, the Wheat Quality Council held its statewide wheat tour.
The three-day average yield for the fields that were calculated was 37 bushels an acre. While an estimated 7.8 million acres of wheat were planted in the fall, most of Kansas has been in a severe drought since October, the council reported. Tour participants saw wheat that was significantly behind schedule, with most areas three or more weeks behind normal development.
Not only that, but the wheat is short, which will make harvesting it difficult. Head size is determined right after the wheat comes out of dormancy, and most of the heads were small, which will negatively affect yields, meaning abandoned acres will likely be higher than normal.
The official tour projection for total production of wheat to be harvested in Kansas is 243.3 million bushels. If realized, this would be about 90 million bushels less than last year’s crop and the lowest production in Kansas since 1989.
This number is calculated based on the average of estimated predictions from tour participants who gathered information from 644 fields across the state.
Golden wheat is trickling into the Great Bend Coop as farmers begin testing the harvest waters, but by week’s end cutting could be in full swing, said Dennis Neeland, the cooperative’s operational manager.
“We’ve taken in a little, but its nothing to write home about,” he said. “But, give us a couple, good, hot, dry days, and we’ll be going.”
With drought-like conditions plaguing the state since last fall and the and late freezes this spring, state ag officials pegged this year’s harvest as the smallest since 1989. This follows last year which produced a crop that yielded decent results.
“It’s too early to tell,” Neeland said. Most producers are hoping for the best, but aren’t holding their breath.
“We don’t have a lot of data yet,” Cottonwood Extension District agent Alicia Boor said. However, from what she’s seen, fields seem about average.
She is anticipating in the 30-bushel-per-acre range, which is about average. “It’s not like we’ve seen in the past couple of years, but considering the drought and freezes, its looking OK.”
The timing is about right since wheat harvest in Kansas typically begins in early- to mid-June and is complete by mid-July, she said. It begins in the south central part of the state and moves north and west.
This past hot, gusty weekend and the sight of combine convoys headed southward are sure signs the harvest is underway, with cutting possibly wrapping up by the end of this week or early next in the southern tier of Kansas counties.
Elsewhere in the state
The 2018 Kansas wheat harvest continued to roll on throughout the beginning of the week. Monday’s Crop Progress Report from the Kansas Wheat Commission estimated that 2 percent of Kansas wheat acres had been cut through the weekend, but with warm, dry and windy conditions, harvested acres will continue to quickly rise, the commission reported Tuesday.
David Janzen, a Butler County farmer, reported that his family’s harvest started Monday evening. Other farmers in the community had reported slightly lower than normal test weights, but Janzen said that all of their loads had been over 60 pounds per bushel.
Rain was on everyone’s minds during the growing season, but unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards for Janzen and his neighbors. While the wheat started off with a bit of rain early during planting, its next measurable relief was toward the end its maturity, which meant it was too little, too late. He estimated most of his wheat had received around three to four inches of rain throughout its growth while normally his area would receive more than 10 inches.
Lack of rain meant little to no disease pressure for the area. Janzen was also concerned about a few late season freezes, but while some white tips can be seen on wheat heads, he felt like it had not had the impact on yields that he had predicted. Yields were averaging in the mid-30s.
Jack Queen, manager of the Farmers Coop Elevator in Halstead, reported that his location received its first load of wheat on June 7. While that day was a few days earlier than average it was considerably earlier than what many would have predicted a month ago.
“When it doesn’t rain and it gets hot it speeds things right along,” said Queen.
Queen reported that yields are ranging from 25-50 bushels with the large spread being attributed to use of fertilizer and spotty rains that some fields had received. Test weights have held well, ranging from 59-62 pounds per bushel. Proteins are averaging in the 13 percent range, which is about a percent and a half above what the location has seen in the last few years.
If rains continue to evade the area, Queen thinks that harvest will wrap up next week.
A weekend start
The harvest really got rolling over the hot, dry weekend. Combines were seen cutting across the state from south central Kansas through the central corridor. Reports of harvest span as far west as Meade County and as far north as Mitchell County; however, most of these areas are just getting started.
Steve Inslee at OK Coop Grain Co. in Kiowa reports that harvest has been quick and will be wrapped up by the end of the week in the area if the hot, dry weather continues. Test cutting began last Monday, and a few rains last week kept farmers out of the fields, but everybody in the area is running now. He estimates that his area is averaging about 25 bushels per acre, “not near what anybody would like,” but quality is good. Test weights are averaging 60 pounds per bushel and protein is above average.
In Harper County, yields are averaging 25 bushels per acre, but in Sumner County they are about 35 bushels per acre. Test weights are good, averaging a little over 60 pounds, and protein is average to slightly above average.