Hot and dry weather conditions in southwest Kansas took its toll on wheat leading up to the 2018 harvest season, leaving farmers predicting mixed results on yields for their golden crop. Now, recent significant rainfall around the region is causing delays in cutting the crop.
Earlier this week, southwest Kansas counties saw a variety of rainfall amounts, including more than 8 inches in parts of Scott County.
Amy France of France Family Farm in Wichita County said Friday that she and her husband, Clint, had expected to begin cutting their wheat sometime earlier this week, prior to receiving nearly 3.5 inches of rain on Tuesday.
“We were getting to see it was dry enough to cut before the 7 inches of rain,” France said, referencing the rainfall in parts of Scott County on Tuesday. “ … Our fields are kind of spread out, so the further east you went, obviously the more rain we got … We’re getting ready to kick off wheat harvest, if not today (Friday), maybe tomorrow (Saturday), in one of our locations.”
Despite delaying their harvest by a few days, France said the rain wasn’t a bad thing.
“I think it was good timing for the other crops in the ground, like our soybeans and milo,” she said. “Our corn got hit with a little bit of the marble-sized hail, but corn is pretty resilient in the early stages, so hopefully it will be OK.”
On May 14, France, along with other Scott, Lane and Ness county area farmers, saw a hailstorm damage a good portion of their wheat crop.
“It was probably quarter-sized and up, and it just stayed put,” France said when describing the May 14 storm. “It wasn’t a very fast moving storm, and it just stayed and hailed.”
The hailstorm pelting her family’s wheat crop resulted in the crop dwindling from 400 to 240 acres, France said.
As for what she expects her crop to yield this harvest, it’s difficult to guess exact numbers.
“It should be around 50, I would say. It’s going to be real spotty with the lack of moisture in the beginning stages, so it’s really hard to say,” France said. “I think we’re going to see some that aren’t as good as what we hoped for, and then I think we’ll be surprised.”
A problem some areas farmers said they may have with this year’s wheat harvest is dealing with weeds. France said in order to avoid weed issues, it’s all about timing, as moisture tends to help unwanted weeds grow faster.
“As far as weeds, we are concerned, especially with this moisture, so we’ll really have to cut quickly,” she said. “Our fields, the one that still looks pretty decent, it looks OK as far as the weeds. As you know, it's a matter of timing. … It could turn into an issue. At this time, its not a significant one.”
National Weather Service officials reported some areas in Scott County saw as much as 8 inches of rain while other areas saw just 2.5 inches on Tuesday. Craig Ramsey with Ramsey Farms in Scott County saw the latter of the two, as well as high wind gusts and some hail, which resulted in a delay in his harvest.
Ramsey said on Wednesday that he had received some hail on his farm, located in the eastern part of the county — but not much, and he doesn't think it caused severe or permanent damage to his crops.
“It just stripped some of the leaves off the corn, and the wind blew some of the corn and laid it over, but it should stand back up. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
As of Wednesday, Ramsey had not started harvesting his crop yet, noting that the effects of Tuesday’s weather will keep him out of the fields longer.
“It’ll certainly delay us for awhile until the fields dry out enough to get back in,” he said. "It’s hard to tell right now how fast it’s going to dry with the weather and everything, but I would think it would be three or four days before we can go in and get started.”
Ramey’s wheat crop was looking good before Tuesday’s storms, he said.
On Tuesday, prior to the rain and other weather hitting the area, Terry Mohl, location manager of United Prairie Ag in Hugoton, told Kansas Wheat the area was about 50 percent harvested.
Mohl said he thinks this year’s yields will be considerably less than average — not great, but better than expected.
He expects that when the last bushel has been brought into his location, they will have taken in about half the total bushels they would in an average year. The wheat is averaging 60 pounds per bushel for test weight, and protein is averaging close to 12, according to Kansas Wheat.
“We went half a year without any measurable precipitation,” Mohl told Kansas Wheat. “We have 10 days of harvest left if we don’t get any weather, but the clouds are building up now. It won’t do us any good for our wheat, but the rest of our crops could sure use a drink.”
Randy Acker, manager of the Meade Co-op Elevator, reported to Kansas Wheat that the area is around 90 percent harvested as of Tuesday.
“This year will be a short harvest in duration and a short harvest in receipts,” Acker told Kansas Wheat. “We didn’t catch enough rain to raise a wheat crop, but I am surprised by the quality.”
The Meade Co-op Elevator is averaging about 60 pounds per bushel in test weight. While there was no substantial disease pressure in the area, weeds in fields may quickly become a serious issue for farmers who aren’t finished harvesting, according to Kansas Wheat.
“If it rains, some acres may have to be abandoned because of the excessive weed growth,” Acker told Kansas Wheat. “Some things you can control, but weather isn’t one of them.”
Contact Josh Harbour at email@example.com.