The early wheat harvest is off to a fast start with farmers bringing in their loads to various Great Bend Co-op locations.
Dennis Neeland, operations manager for the Great Bend Co-op, said it's been an average harvest for some farmers and below average for others. The Great Bend Co-op operates elevators in Albert, Pawnee Rock, Radium, Ellinwood, Boyd and Seward. The co-op stores wheat, milo, corn, soybeans and oats and operates a feed department and farm store.
A normal harvest would start the second or third week of June. But unusually warm spring weather and subsequent dry conditions have caused the wheat to ripen several weeks ahead of schedule.
"It hasn't been a normal wheat harvest because we've never started wheat harvest before Memorial Day," Neeland said. "Before they wind down, most farmers would welcome some rain to postpone wheat harvest. They need some rain for the fall crops. A farmer always has to look ahead."
Neeland said moisture content is good ranging from 11 to 12 percent. Protein content has also been good, ranging from 12 to 13 percent.
The Great Bend Co-op locations have gathered 470,000 bushels of wheat, about 15 to 20 percent of an average harvest. Typically, Great Bend Co-op would take in 3.5 million bushels of wheat.
"The first wheat was delivered Friday and all of our locations are taking in wheat shipments," he said. "So far, the harvest is going pretty well."
Neeland said the yield range has a wide range.
"The wheat quality is all over the board from 50 to 62 pounds on test weights," he said. "Yields per acre have ranged from a low of 15 bushels to 42 bushels per acre. Where a farmer received some timely rain, their wheat has done quite a bit better. Where they didn't get those timely rains, their yields have gone done."
Kim Barnes, CFO for the Pawnee County Co-op, reports May 24 was the earliest start to harvest in memory. Pawnee County Co-op operates elevators in Larned, Garfield, Macksville, Dundee and Dartmouth. Most wheat have enjoyed acceptable moisture content and test weights have matched up with expectations.
"Harvest is progressing all over our trade territory," Barnes said. "Moisture content and test weights are about what we had projected. The drought in certain areas have dropped expected yields. But one shipment had some wet grain, so that can even vary."
Weather could cause some problems. A thunderstorm watch was posted Wednesday and thunderstorm warnings with 70 mph wind and hail exceeding were posted for parts of Barton, Russell, Ellsworth and Lincoln counties Wednesday afternoon.
Stafford's Randy Fritzemeier, a Kansas Association of Wheat Growers board member, started harvest May 26.
Yields on fields he has completed average about 45 bushels per acre; test weight averages 62 pounds per bushel, which has been a pleasant surprise given the extreme heat and dryness over the last month. Fritzemeier said isolated rains fell on some of his fields the first of the month, which helped his crop finish strong.
Jeremy Kootz at the Ellsworth Coop in Holyrood said a few farmers started hauling in loads Monday with moisture averaging 13 percent and test weights between 57 and 62 pounds per bushel.
Although Kootz said is looking forward to harvest kicking into high gear soon, the forecast calls for much-needed rain, which will determine the pace for the rest of the week.