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Harvest starting in Golden Belt
Best fields report high yields

The first day of summer was Day 4 of the Kansas Wheat Harvest Reports and some cutting has already begun in the Golden Belt.

Many Kansas farm families spent Father’s Day working together in the field as test cutting expanded across Kansas over the weekend. With conditions remaining hot and dry, farmers are anxious to get harvest going into full swing.

Dara Prescott, who farms near Ellinwood, started cutting last Wednesday – one of the earlier folks to start harvest in Barton County and haul into the nearby Bartlett Grain Company shuttle-loading facility. South of Cheyenne Bottoms, wheat yields are coming in from 40 to 55 bushels per acre. Unfortunately, however, part of her area was hit by a hailstorm in mid-May that caused significant damage. In affected fields, Prescott reported yields are averaging in the 30 bushel-per-acre range. 

Overall, Prescott expects an average wheat harvest this year – not great, but not terrible either. This year’s wheat was planted into drought conditions, caught a few small rains, but then have remained dry into harvest.

“It’s dry as a popcorn — dry, dry, dry,” she said.

Scattered rains fell across the state Sunday night ahead of a cool front. The combination of light rain and lower temperatures halted harvest progress across central and southern Kansas, but farmers and elevators expected combines to be rolling again Tuesday. 

In the weekly Crop Progress and Condition report, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service noted 13% of the Kansas wheat crop has been harvested, behind last year’s 23% and the five-year average. Sixty percent of the wheat crop was mature as of June 20, near last year at this time. Statewide, the agency rated the wheat crop’s condition at 63% good to excellent, 25% fair and 14% poor to very poor. 

Farmers in Ness County were also stalled for the moment, despite only receiving sprinkles Sunday night, according to Michael Kempke, CEO/general manager of The Cooperative Grain and Supply Company in Bazine. Farmers were only delivering wheat cut the night before as of mid-day Monday, but he expected harvest to be back up to speed by Tuesday. 

Overall, Kempke reported wheat harvest in the area is roughly 11% complete with 109,000 bushels delivered since the elevator took in the first load on June 17. Yields range from 40 to 50 bushels per acre on poor wheat to as high as 70 bushels per acre, but he anticipates seeing even higher yields as farmers get into their best fields. 

“We haven’t even gotten in the good stuff yet,” Kempke said. “I would expect to see some 80-,90-,100-bushel wheat around here, especially where they treated for stripe rust early.” 

Stripe rust was a concern for the area, so many farmers put a preventative down while topdressing in late winter that held through May. If not treated early, most farmers did put on a May application. As a result, some fields have been impacted, but many have remained in good condition.

As of June 20, Kempke said the elevator average for test weight was 62.1 pounds per bushel and moisture was averaging 10.1%. Protein is lower than last year’s 12.2% average. He keeps a close eye on protein as every load coming into the elevator is tested for protein, and farmers are paid premiums for superior protein content. Overall, Kempke is budgeting for one of the biggest crops in recent years, maybe even better than the 2019 harvest.

“From a farmer’s perspective, I think they’re pretty excited given the high yields and good prices — which is great for the farm economy and the community, having those extra dollars around this summer,” he said. “They’re about as happy as I’ve seen them in a while.” 

The 2021 Harvest Report is brought to you by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Grain and Feed Association. To follow along with harvest updates on Twitter, use #wheatharvest21. Tag at @kansaswheat on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share your harvest story and photos.