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Wheat harvest underway
Although delayed by rain, early cutting shows wheat better than expected
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There are terms associated with wheat harvest that many not understand. Here are some brief explanations:
• Test weight per bushel is the weight of the volume of grain that is required to fill a Winchester bushel (2,150.42 cubic inch) to capacity. Test weight tends to increase as moisture content decreases.
• The average percentage of protein in wheat is 11-26. By some standards, 18.6 is considered ideal. The higher the protein, the higher the quality. Ironically, some drought-stressed, shriveled-kernel wheat can have really high protein content.
• Moisture content is a measure of just that. Dry wheat is better. The higher the moisture, the better chance of it rotting while stored. Also, the water can add weight to the grain so farmers get docked when it is wet.
Other wheat tidbits:
• One 60 pound bushel of wheat provides about 42 pounds of flour.
• On average, Kansas is the largest wheat producing state. Nearly one-fifth of all wheat grown in the United States is grown in Kansas.
• The wheat kernel, sometimes called the wheat berry, is the seed from which the wheat plant grows.
• One bushel of wheat contains approximately 1 million individual kernels.
• A modern combine can harvest 1,000 bushels of wheat per hour.
• One bushel of wheat yields enough flour for 73 one-pound loaves of white bread.

The 2014 wheat harvest in Barton County is slowing getting rolling, despite recent rains and damp fields. But, despite the tepid beginning, the wheat is looking better than anticipated, grain elevator operators said.
“It’s trying to get started,” said Dennis Neeland, operations manger for Great Bend Co-op. The cooperative  has elevators in Great Bend, as well as Albert, Boyd, Ellinwood, Pawnee Rock, Radium and Seward.
“The first load came in late Monday,” Neeland said. With all of its locations taking wheat, 129,000 bushels had come across the scales as of early Thursday.
Some producers have been chomping at the bit since last week to get started, said Barton County Extension Agent Alicia Boor. However, the rains kept them out of the fields.
There are still some patches of green, unripened wheat, she said. But, a hot day or two with a stiff warm wind would get them ready in a hurry.
The harvest, she said, is on the brink of going full tilt.
The test weights have been pushing 60 pounds per bushel, much to the surprise of area farmers, Neeland said. Moisture has been around 11 percent, which is good and the protein content has been around 12, also within normal ranges.
Of course, Neeland, the quality may not be indicative of the harvest as a whole. “Farmers cut their good wheat first” in case Mother Nature steps in and slows things down.
There is a lot of thin stands of wheat in the county and they might be ripe for a weed problem, he said. Without the weed-slowing canopy provided by strong wheat, the unwanted plants could take hold, especially with all the moisture.
“This could be critical if it stays wet,” Neeland said.
Also, as it turns out, harvest is falling at the same time as milo planting and hay cutting. “Farmers are really busy right now,” he said.
Beaver Grain Corporation in Beaver took in about 15,000 bushels Tuesday and Wednesday, an elevator spokesperson said. But, a half-inch rain Wednesday night halted cutting for now.
The wheat Beaver Grain has seen, though, has looked good.
The Pawnee County Cooperative Association started taking wheat in Friday at its Macksville elevator in Stafford County. The Dartmouth elevator started Monday in Barton County and Larned and Garfield elevators in Pawnee County started work Saturday and Monday, respectively. Harvesters have battled wet fields after recent rain.
“They’ve been pleasantly busy. It’s going to be an interesting harvest,” said Kim Barnes, Pawnee County Co-op CFO. “We’ll be busy until the end of June, probably into July.”
There were also reports of cutting in Russell and other Golden Belt counties.
Jared Wendelburg, a Stafford County farmer, reports that his yields are ranging from  30 to 40 bushels an acre to the Kansas Wheat Commission. Wendelburg believes the quality of his crop is good and the test weights are ranging between 58 to 60 pounds per bushel.
Wendelburg said the 2014 harvest has been better than expected, but, continuing with the statewide trend, it’s still not as good as last year’s wheat.
Elsewhere around the state, harvest was delayed due to wet conditions.
Farmers statewide are still seeing lower than normal yields, higher than average protein content and a consistently decent test weight.
Jerald Kemmerer, manager at Pride Ag Resources in Dodge City, said that dryland wheat farmers started harvesting Monday.
Test weights have been holding up in the 58 to 60 pounds per bushel range. The protein content is higher than average. Kemmerer reports irrigated wheat isn’t quite ready for harvest yet, but he predicts that it should commence next week.
“The last three or four harvests have been pretty bleak, so this year is pretty much right in line with that trend,” he said.
Jeremy Salem, from United Prairie Ag in Satanta, reports his location has taken in 10,000 bushels. Yields have ranged from five to 15 bushels an acre. The test weight range is 60 to 61 pounds per bushel.
Jesse Blasi, a Pratt County farmer, has seen yields ranging from 10 to 45 bushels per acre.
Blasi said that the eastern part of Pratt County didn’t suffer as much freeze damage. Test weights are hitting 58 to 62 pounds per bushel.
Harvest has commenced in nearly all of southern Kansas, from Hamilton to Cherokee counties.
In the central part of the state it even progressed northward to just shy of the Nebraska border. Farmers are seeing lower than normal yields statewide, along with a higher protein content than usual.
Alex Gerard, representative of Gavilon Grain, reports a variety of yields from the coop’s multiple locations. According to Gerard, the Gavilon locations are reporting anywhere between 15 to 35 bushels per acre. While their yields may be lacking, the test weights are holding in at about 58 to 62 pounds per bushel. Without rain in the area, Gerard estimates that harvest would wrap up in about a week, but Mother Nature may have other plans with expected rains later this week.
“Last year, starting day was like a sprint, but this year we are gearing up for a marathon,” Gerard said.
Mark Paul, the general manager of Cloud County Coop Elevator Association, says that the farmers in his area are also suffering from a wide variety of low yields. The test weights in the area are an average of 60 pounds. Paul says that the wheat from his area is suffering both from freeze and drought damage. While last year was a good quality crop for Cloud County Coop, Paul says that this year’s crop is not the quality that he would like to see.
Kearny County’s Gary Millershaski, president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, reports an equal, or slightly better crop than 2013.
Millershaski said, “Last year was the worst crop of my entire career. This one may be as bad, but it could end up being a bit better.”
His yields so far are in the 12 to 18 bushels per acre range. While so far it is looking like a good quality crop, he couldn’t report on the test weight.
Jim Michael, a farmer from Crawford County and KAWG Director, reports a good quality crop weighing in at around 60-61 pounds per bushel. He has harvested both Everest and WB-Cedar varieties and both are performing well for him. Michael estimates that there will be cutting in the area for around 10 days to two weeks.