On eve of wheat harvest, yield prospects low
By SCOTT AUST
Ongoing drought and several spring freezes do not bode well for this year's area wheat crop.
According to several area elevator operators, the harvest — or what may pass for harvest — should be in full swing late next week.
"We've had some guys do some test cutting, but we're talking small samples," Ken Jameson, of Garden City Co-op, said. "I think if the weather is right and we have the heat and wind they're predicting, we should get going next week."
However, Jameson and other elevator managers expect the overall crop to be down quite a bit.
"I have not talked to any insurance companies here in town, but I know adjusters have been out. A lot of the dryland crop, they're talking about seven, eight, nine, 10 bushels an acre is all. We're sure not looking for an average crop out of this. It will be way down."
Scott See, elevator manager with Scott County Co-op, said he's seen no test cutting so far and expects harvest won't begin until the middle of next week at the earliest.
"It's not very good right here. It's pretty dry. They're thinking maybe a 20 bushel average," he said.
Ed Bemis, manager at United Prairie Ag in Lakin, said it's a little too early to tell how the wheat will look in his area, though it's probably not going to be too good.
"I've got a guy cutting tomorrow (Saturday), so we may know more about yields next week," he said. "It's probably around 20 bushels per acre, but there will probably be a lot of five and 10 bushels per acre yields as well."
According to the Associated Press, wheat production in southwest and west-central Kansas is expected to be nearly half last year's crop with production estimates of 22.5 to 27 million bushels.
Drought, dry conditions and spring freeze damage played havoc with both dryland and irrigated wheat this year, according to John Holman, Kansas State University research and extension agronomist based in Garden City.
"It's not going to be a very good crop," Holman said. "Quite a few dryland fields are probably not even going to be cut, because they are so low yielding it's not going to pay to cut them."
Holman said the better dryland yields might average 20 to 30 bushels per acre.
"I think if you got 20 to 30 this year on dryland, you're doing dang good," he said.
Jeremy Salem, manager at Irsik Doll elevator in Sublette, said some of the estimates he's heard from producers is even lower, in the five to 20 bushel an acre range — quite low considering an average harvest might bring in up to 40 bushels.
"We haven't seen anything other than a couple of coffee can samples, and they weighed anywhere from 16.8 to 17.8," Salem said. "As bad as it's been, hit with drought and some late freezes, they're not expecting a very good crop at all. I'm also thinking the test weight might be down. I haven't seen anything really to make a good prediction."
Salem expects that warmer and windier weather anticipated over the next week will probably get harvest into full swing — whatever full swing might be — by the end of next week.
"There's going to be a lot of fields just not cut," he said. "We're hoping maybe we've just under-predicted this and maybe it's going to be better than we think."