After a season of viruses and Mother Nature’s wrath, wheat harvest is wrapping up across the state.
As of Sunday, 93 percent of Kansas’ winter wheat had been harvested, above last year’s harvest report, as well as the five-year average, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The state saw near normal temperatures last week, with relatively dry conditions. Some received 1 inch or less of rain. The warm, dry weather aided the progression of harvest.
Ken Jameson, vice president of the grain division of the Garden City Co-op, said Wednesday that co-ops in the area are still receiving grain.
When asked if harvest is expected to wrap up soon, Jameson said it depends on what the weather has in store, since there are chances for rain later in the week that could result in more delays.
“Through this weekend, I’d say say we’d be 99.5 percent done,” Jameson said about if there are no rain delays. “Historically, the week of July 4 usually gets it done, so we’re not that late."
Jameson noted that bushels were lost to hail this year. Late last month, a hail storm swept through areas north of Ulysses and parts of Kearny and Finney counties, which resulted in some wheat and cornfields to be wiped out, he said.
“To say what we lost to the hail is real difficult to calculate, but it was substantial,” Jameson said.
Farmers across the state also saw their crop struck with wheat streak mosaic virus, which is universally distributed by the wheat curl mite, resulting in stunted growth, yellowing streaks and varied discoloration.
Farmers began reporting their crop had the virus shortly after a snowstorm on April 30 and May 1 that dropped more than a foot of snow in some areas of southwest Kansas.
Virus, hail, and snowstorms all have factored in to farmers' yields.
“It’s always hard to ‘guestimate’ how many bushels that will cost you, particularly this year with the yields being so variable,” Jameson said. “We’ve heard 15 bushels an acre, all the way up to 80 bushels an acre.”
Jameson said he couldn’t release the number of bushels the co-op has received since harvest started, but said it would be less than half of what was received last year.
“Last year was a record harvest, so we’re a little shy of what we would call an average harvest,” he said.
Overall, Jameson said, the 2017 winter wheat harvest has turned out to be a little disappointing.
“There was a lot of unknown going into this harvest,” he said.
Jason Ochs, a farmer in Hamilton County, said last month that his crop wasn’t a total loss due to the wheat streak mosaic virus.
“I’m extremely blessed for the year, no doubt. I’ve talked to a lot of guys that didn’t have such good luck with some of the diseases out there,” Ochs said previously.
Ochs said previously that his wheat crop was doing better than the county average, especially the crop he planted later than dryland wheat.
Approximately half the Hamilton County’s acres weren’t even harvested because of the virus, according to Kansas Wheat.
Dr. Romulo Lollato, wheat and forage extension specialist for Kansas State University Research and Extension, told Kansas Wheat last week that except for northwest Kansas, most farmers in the state already are done with harvest.
Chris Heiman, of Heiman Family Farms east of Plymell, said Wednesday that he finished cutting his crop around July 1.
Heiman said his dryland yields were pretty surprising, especially after the snow storm.
“That snow storm laid it flat, but some of it stood up, some of it stayed laying down, but it turned out to be a pretty good crop,” Heiman said, adding that the crop had 50 to 80 bushels an acre. “We were very fortunate to have the yields that we had.”
Like all southwest Kansas farmers, Heiman’s wheat was hit with the snowstorm, but his crop proved to be resilient.
“After that snowstorm, it turned around and looked a lot better than at the time of the storm in April,” Heiman said of his crop.
Heiman’s crop also was hit by the virus, but only on the edges of his fields, he said, adding that it wasn’t anything devastating.
“I think south of Garden, it was good wheat for the most part. There was some really good looking wheat fields,” he said. “Like every year, you can never out-guess the wheat crop in southwest Kansas.”
Contact Josh Harbour at email@example.com