wheat harvest
Rain temporarily halted wheat harvest in parts of the U.S. but with hot, dry weather the combines are running again.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — Rainfall across the southern Plains temporarily stalled the hard red winter wheat harvest, while widespread rains across the Corn Belt states benefited fall crops but also delayed soft red winter wheat harvest in the Central states. But hot, dry weather returned at midweek and combines again were rolling across the southern Plains.

After making strong progress since early June, the hard red winter wheat harvest came to a standstill across most of the southern Plains around June 20 as widespread rains moved through the region. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its weekly Crop Progress report said Kansas wheat was 52% harvested as of June 24, up from 23% a week earlier and ahead of 44% last year and 32% as the 2013-17 average for the date. Wheat was 92% combined in Oklahoma (74% as the average for the date), 71% in Texas (71%), 6% in Colorado (1%) and 1% in Nebraska (1%). Harvest had not yet begun in South Dakota and Montana.

In a June 27 harvest update, Kansas Wheat said a few combines resumed operations June 26 and more on June 27 as 100+ degree temperatures and high winds dried out fields in western Kansas, although high humidity remained an issue. As was the case in wheat harvested in other parts of the state before the rain delay, reports from southwest Kansas indicated higher-than-expected yields and protein averaging 12% or above, but in a wide range of 10.5% to 15.5%. Test weights remained good as well, although some were down slightly due to drought during the growing season, Kansas Wheat said.

 Harvest also resumed in Oklahoma, where wheat was 93% combined as of June 26, with all regions at 94% or above except the North Central at 85% and the Panhandle at 52%, the Oklahoma Wheat Commission said in its June 26 report.

“As of today (June 26), harvest has been progressing in Boise City,” the Oklahoma Wheat Commission said. “Producers in other parts of the Panhandle are hoping to get into the fields today and tomorrow, while in some areas, it will still be a few more days, even in parts of Northern Oklahoma. Grain quality to this point continues to be favorable with high test weights and high proteins; however, the producers in parts of Northern Oklahoma are concerned that test weights will be impacted on what is left in the field.”

Test weights were averaging 60 to 62 pounds per bushel for wheat harvested in the Panhandle June 26, with protein from 12.5% to 13%. Dryland yields have ranged from 10 bushels per acre to the mid-20s, with occasional reports of yields in the high 30s, the Commission said.

While the recent rainfall would have been much more welcome during the winter wheat growing season, farmers across the southern Plains reported better-than-expected yields in many cases (though below average) and much higher protein, which was expected from the drought-stressed crop. The protein was especially welcome after the prior two consecutive hard red winter crops of below-average protein and will lend itself well to blending with remaining old-crop, low-protein supply.

Based on 105 of an expected 500 samples of hard red winter wheat, Plains Grains, Inc., (PGI) on June 22 reported an average protein of 12.6% (11.4% as the 2017 crop average), an average test weight of 60.9 bushels per acre (60.8 bushels in 2017) and an average grade of No. 1 hard red winter (the same as last year). 

The rains also caused delays for the soft red winter wheat harvest in the key Central states. While the soft red harvest was well advanced across the South, it was just beginning in some of the Central states. The USDA said as of June 24 winter wheat was 66% harvested in Illinois (41% as the prior five-year average for the date), 28% in Indiana (20%), 4% in Ohio (3%), 66% in Missouri (47%), 99% in Arkansas (83%) and 75% in North Carolina (71%). Harvest had not yet begun in Michigan.

U.S. Wheat Associates in its June 22 harvest update, based on 75 of an expected 300 samples, said soft red winter wheat average protein was 10% (9.5% as the 2017 crop average), average test weight was 56.6 pounds per bushel (58.8 pounds last year), average thousand kernel weight was 30.9 grams (34.2 grams last year), and average falling number was 326 seconds (320 seconds last year). The average grade was No. 3 soft red winter (No. 2 last year) “due to the low test weight average from southern North Carolina of 55.4 pounds per bushel.”

The rains were welcome for spring wheat in the Upper Midwest. Spring wheat in the six major states was rated 77% good to excellent as of June 24 (78% a week earlier and 70% two weeks prior), far above 40% with the same rating a year ago when 28% of the crop was rated poor to very poor (only 3% this year), the USDA said in its weekly Crop Progress report. Good-to-excellent ratings were 80% in North Dakota, 57% in South Dakota, 86% in Minnesota, 77% in Montana, 78% in Idaho and 81% in Washington.

Row crops also benefited from recent rainfall. The USDA said corn in the 18 major states was rated 77% good to excellent as of June 24, well above 67% at the same time last year and historically high. The corn crop was entering its key pollination phase, with 5% of the crop silking as of June 24, slightly ahead of average, although most key Corn Belt states were at 2% or below. Adequate rainfall will be especially critical during the pollination phase over the next few weeks. Soybeans in the 18 major states were rated 73% good to excellent, also above last year’s 66%.