After a growing season plagued with zero rainfall for seven months, hailstorms in May, and significant rainfall in June, wheat harvest in southwest Kansas appears to be wrapping up for area farmers.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Agriculture Statistics Service, as of Sunday, winter wheat average condition was rated 16 percent very poor, 30 percent poor, 37 percent fair, 15 percent good, and 2 percent excellent.
Winter wheat harvest was 92 percent complete overall across the state, after being nearly 90 percent done this time last year, and ahead of the 85 percent five-year average.
Southwest Kansas alone was 94 percent complete with wheat harvest as of Sunday, while northwest Kansas was only 72 percent complete. Southeast Kansas was completely done with harvest.
Amy France of France Family Farms in Wichita County said Friday that she and her husband, Clint, completed their wheat harvest on July 7. Despite battling the weather, France said harvest turned out better than she expected.
“As farmers, you put in all the time and effort and money, and it’s really disappointing when you pull out of a field that you spent hours in and lots of money, then you have a 15 (yield) average,” France said. “It’s a little disheartening, and taking into consideration everything else that’s going on in the ag world, it was kind of a tough harvest knowing this was going to be the continuation of constant decline of income and thinking, ‘Maybe we can make a good crop’ and then we get hail that determines that we won’t.”
On May 14, Scott, Lane and Ness county area farmers saw a hail storm damage a good portion of their wheat crop. The Frances lost approximately 400 acres of wheat as a result of the storm.
France said the crop loss played a significant factor in their yield averages.
“It wasn’t bad enough to be declared a complete loss, but once we got in there, it wasn’t very good,” she said. “We hit a few sections on the field that felt really good, but of course, throwing in the zeros with our average, it really brought it down.”
After battling hail and late rains, France said her wheat crop averaged 15 bushels per acre, though some strips were 30 to 40.
Logan Campbell, Dighton area grain manager at the Garden City Co-op Inc. in Lane County, told Kansas Wheat that the county was heavily affected by hail. The Co-op took in its first load on June 16, but the rain caused some delays.
“An average year for the area is about 6 to 8 million bushels, and as of June 30 we were just a hair below 5 million bushels,” Campbell said, attributing this to fewer acres being planted and loss of acres from a May 14 hail storm. “The storm stretched from the western side to the eastern side of the county, taking out a five-mile swath, which was about one-third of our harvest… It affected us pretty significantly, and the storm didn’t leave anything behind.”
In Lane County, yields have ranged from 10 to 50 bushels per acre, Campbell said, noting that test weights were looking good until the rain hit.
“Test weights started out amazing at 65 pounds per bushel, but then it rained. From there, they dropped,” Campbell said. “The average from the northern area of Lane, which is what I oversee, has been 60 pounds per bushel.”
Campbell also said proteins have been averaging from 12.5 to 13 percent.
Following the hail storm, which dropped quarter-sized hail in some areas, southwest Kansas saw significant rainfall in June. The Scott City area alone received nearly 8 inches in mid-June, while other areas received an average of 3 to 5 inches around the same time frame. The rain ultimately caused some delays in harvest, and left some farmers battling weeds in their wheat fields.
“Due to all the rain, it was difficult to get into the fields to get the wheat cut, and even now there are lots of spots that are extremely wet,” France said. “You just start to go in, thinking it looks good, then you get out and see you’re picking up some heavy mud. I would say that was definitely a hard thing… I would definitely say the extra moisture was a challenge.”
Area farmers reported throughout the harvest season that weeds might become an issue while cutting. France said her crop was no exception.
“We did have some struggle with weeds, but it depended where, as we have fields in Wichita and Scott county,” she said. “One of our Scott County fields, we did struggle with weeds because of all the rain.”
Despite the late rains delaying harvest and causing weed growth, France said the moisture will help her fall crops like milo corn and soybeans. Her corn was hit with hail twice in the last few months, but she said the crop is resilient.
“We’re hopeful for some strong (fall) crops,” France said. “The corn was young enough when the hail came through it should be bale to pull out of it. And with the rains, that was great, too. We also have some grain sorghum, and our soybeans… You pray for the rain, then you scramble to take on what that rain produced. It’s a good problem to have.”
Contact Josh Harbour at email@example.com.