Rain delays Kansas winter wheat harvest

by Matt Noltemeyer
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Rain continues to delay winter wheat harvest in Kansas.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — Arrival of rains that proved elusive during the vital growing season continue to intermittently delay the winter wheat harvest in Kansas. Precipitation levels continued to mount over the weekend, increasing weed pressure and presenting a quandary over what to do about them.

“It feels like we’re still going to be cutting at Christmas,” said Rooks county producer Mike McClellan, who is in the early stages of harvest and expects to be cutting for another two weeks, if subsequent moisture doesn’t extend his harvest even further. “In 1993, we cut wheat in June, July and August, and it may just be on track for that this year,” he told Kansas Wheat in its daily harvest update.

McClellan’s two harvested fields have yielded 54 to 53 bushels per acre, exceeding expectations, but he said it will be “downhill from there” as yields in some of his other fields will sink into the teens and twenties. Test weights have ranged from 58 to 62 pounds per bushel, but the late rains could lower that range as well. Proteins in the area are higher than average.

McClellan said his fields received between 1.5 and 4.5 inches of rain on Saturday evening, leading him to believe many fields would remain a muddy mess to start the week.

Nonetheless, farmers who received the lighter end of the rainfall range may try to get harvest rolling again Monday, the Kansas Wheat Commission said in its Day 13 harvest report released in collaboration with the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Grain and Feed Association.

Plains Grains, Inc. (PGI), in its June 29 harvest summary, indicated wheat was 59% harvested in Kansas, 95% in Oklahoma, 84% in Texas, 7% in Colorado and 3% in Nebraska.

PGI indicated based on 166 of an expected 500 samples of new crop hard red winter wheat had been analyzed by June 29 an average protein of the samples was 12.7% (11.4% as the 2017 crop average) and an average test weight was 60.2 pounds per bushel (60.8 pounds). The samples graded No. 1 hard red winter wheat, the same as in 2017.

The rains appreciated for their benefit to fall crops also have ramped up weed pressure for the ongoing wheat harvest.

Farmers face the dilemma of whether to control weeds with sprayed herbicide to ease the harvest. Doing so requires a waiting period to avoid dockage or refusal at grain elevators if wheat exceeds a tolerance level. But the waiting means risking additional rain delays. 

“Weeds will definitely put the pressure on us as we continue to cut,” said Kearny county farmer Jenny Goering. “We’re still in the middle of it, but we just have to keep going and keep our heads up.”

The Goering family, whose wheat was about 50% harvested and which narrowly avoided the heavy rains, plans to resume cutting on Monday with another week projected until the finish line. Yields on the Goerings’ organic wheat reached a better-than-expected 20 to 30 bushels per acre with test weights above 60 pounds per bushel.

Farmers in northwest Kansas and in Nebraska still were in the early stages harvest. Dietrich Kastens, a no-till producer farming in Rawlins county in northwest Kansas, tweeted June 29 he was cutting white wheat to start his harvest. Producer Mike James tweeted “It begins” June 29 under a photo of a combine at work on his farm near Nebraska City, Nebraska, U.S. Mike Baker, owner of Baker’s Acres farm in southwest Nebraska near Trenton, tweeted “chaos begins” July 1 with a photo of a combine loading wheat into a truck.

You may view #wheatharvest18 updates, photos and videos from wheat-growing regions around Kansas and the world by searching that hashtag on Twitter.

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