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Local farmers recording poor harvest numbers

7/1/2013

Growers agree this year is among worst dating back to 1950s.

Growers agree this year is among worst dating back to 1950s.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

There may be somewhere in southwest Kansas where wheat harvest numbers are good, but Darrell Goss of Garden City hasn't heard where that might be.

"Our wheat, it's just not doing what it usually does. The yields are down," Goss said.

Goss said he didn't have much wheat this year individually, though his brother, Larry, had quite a bit. Together, the two brothers also farm about 240 acres cooperatively, all of which had already been cut last week.

"I helped him cut some dryland, making 15 to 17 bushels, up to 20. Irrigated was running 40 to 70. But the freeze hurt us pretty bad, and then the dry weather. No matter if you've got irrigation, it's hard to keep enough water on it," Goss said.

Other farmers agreed that this year's crop is pretty poor, which wasn't unexpected given the ongoing exceptional drought and a spring full of crop-damaging freezes.

Lane County farmer Tanner Ehmke said his yields have been half of what they were last year. Instead of around 40 bushels an acre, many farmers are seeing anywhere from 15 to 30 bushels.

"And there are a few people who are going to cut just four or five bushel wheat," Ehmke said. "It's not nearly what we hoped for. It's bad all over, kind of the same story wherever you go. Hopefully this drought ends sooner rather than later."

Ehmke, who came back to farming about three years ago after a stint as a reporter covering the agriculture market and Chicago Board of Trade, said this is the worst wheat harvest he's had, and thinks his dad, Vance Ehmke, who's been a farmer much longer might also agree this year's crop would rank right up there as one of the worst ever.

"It's definitely a result of years of drought, and it's getting old, fast," he said.

Ehmke said guys at his local grain elevator said over the weekend that harvest was already winding down, less than a week after it swung into high gear.

"Harvest is pretty short this year. The elevator looked like a ghost town. There was like one truck dumping, and I never saw a line. It was that bad," he said.

Eugene Shapland, a Dighton-area farmer, tried to keep his sense of humor when asked how harvest was going.

"It's going pretty good. I don't need many truck drivers, that's for sure," Shapland said.

Shapland said Sunday he only has about 25 percent of his crop to cut, but there's not much grain. Yields vary from field to field, but overall Shapland estimated his yields at 18 to 20 bushels per acre.

"When you've got 20 bushel wheat, why, you can go through it a lot faster. If we had 50 bushel wheat we'd cut 'til midnight or so, and be out there running by 8:30 or 9 (a.m.) if there was no dew," he said.

Shapland said he isn't cutting after dark this year because the wheat is only a foot to 18 inches tall at most and he doesn't want to risk running a header into the ground.

"I guess we're not too enthused about starting real early, either," he said.

The combination of drought and freeze this year did the damage, Shapland said. At first, he thought the freezes would be the main cause of poor yields but after he started cutting he thinks the drought was a little worse.

"But the combination really done us a job," Shapland said.

When asked how this year's harvest compared to those in the past, Shapland couldn't say it was the worst, though it would surely rank among the worst.

"I'm 76. I've harvested wheat since the 1950s, and of course back then, we didn't have any wheat for a few years," he said. "In '63, the worms ate the wheat all up. Then last year we had a 31 bushel average and we're worse off this year than last. I just don't know, I can't remember a poorer crop than this one, unless I go back into the '50s."

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