Wheat maturing quickly as harvest approaches

Chad Frey

The first loads of wheat came into a load facility in Sumner County on Monday — a harbinger of things to come.

“Usually within a week or so you will see activity here,” said Jared Jones, strategic account manager for MKC cooperative in Harvey and McPherson counties. “By the end of the week I would not be surprised to see some samples.”

In the Harvey/McPherson/Butler County region, the wheat has, according to Jones, made a comeback in the last few weeks. About two months ago the crop was in dire shape as weather had not been kind.

But Mother Nature turned kind to wheat in May with cooler temperatures and enough moisture to fuel a comeback for the wheat.

“I am fond of saying wheat has nine lives like a cat,” said Mike Zacharias. strategic accounting manager for Butler County. “... This year it has flipped a switch.”

“May we had good moisture and cool temperatures,” Jones said. “You get highs in the 70s and 80s with moisture. ... things have turned around. There is a lot of optimism.”

That does not mean, he said, anyone is talking about a bumper crop. But it does mean barring a setback in the weeks ahead the harvest should be average or better.

“Most guys feel good about what they have,” Jones said.

Zacharias believes at least some of the wheat in his region will be excellent — as much as 80 bushel an acre. Mid 40s is average or better.

“It will be average or better,” Zacharias said. “I think people would have signed on the dotted line for average wheat just a few weeks ago.”

With high temperatures in the mid-90s and strong winds, the wheat crop is maturing quickly — and that means cutting should start soon, as soon as the green fields turn gold.

Wheat farmer board members of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and Kansas Wheat Commission held board meetings recently, and they discussed current crop conditions throughout the state.

Accroding to Kansas Wheat, Derek Sawyer of McPherson reports that his wheat looks really good, but you don't have to go very far west for conditions to deteriorate. Some spots are starting to show up where it was too wet a couple of weeks ago. He said the wheat is just starting to turn color, and with high temperatures and wind, it is progressing quickly.

John Hildebrand, who farms in south central Kansas in Stafford County, reported that the wheat looks pretty good in his area. It made it through the freeze OK and looks better than last year. He said the stands are more consistent, and it is ripening up fast. Harvest will likely begin in the area in the next week to 10 days.

Scott Van Allen of Clearwater estimates that harvest is 10 days to two weeks away. He said that “with 90 degree temps, some fields have really turned the last few days."

One issue he's seen in the area is an increased amount of cheat (weeds) in the fields, even in fields that have been rotated efficiently.

Martin Kerschen of Garden Plain also noted the amount of cheat in the fields. He said the wheat is turning and looks good.

"We are looking forward to harvest," he said.

Farther west in southwest Kansas, Jason Ochs of Syracuse said that they have received 1-2 inches of rain over the past two weeks, which has helped wheat in the area hang on. With no moisture in the forecast and 100 degree temperatures and wind, wheat is turning very quickly. He said some wheat in the area has been destroyed and the remaining looks tough. He estimated that harvest would begin about June 20-23, possibly sooner if the temperature stays high.

Kyler Millershaski, from Lakin, said their wheat looks "surprisingly average" at this point, but conditions will continue to deteriorate with this week's high temperatures. With extremely dry conditions throughout the growing season, he reported that they've missed out on the rains, but also missed out on freeze damage. He is hopeful that the drought conditions will result in higher than average protein levels in the area. With the high temperatures and strong winds this week, the wheat is suffering from continued lack of moisture and maturing quickly.

Nearby, Rick Horton, from Leoti, says it has been an interesting year and that will continue through the rest of the growing season.

"We've never seen it go from this stage with no rain to finish it with these temperatures," he said. "It will be interesting to watch the newer varieties finish." While the freeze did thin down some of the wheat, that may make it last longer with the high temperatures this week. "If it would rain, the wheat could do OK," he said.

Ron Suppes of Dighton in west central Kansas said “researchers need to be complemented on the genetics we have now." He said the wheat is holding up to the drought conditions much better than it would have 20 years ago. As far as the beginning of harvest, he said, "If we catch a shower, we'll be at the 20th of June, but some may go quicker."

In northwest Kansas near Norton, Chris Tanner reports that planting date and sporadic rains have led to variable conditions. Some of the wheat headed out at only 8 inches tall, while some is waist high. Acres in the area are down, and after some terrific yields last year, they are looking at a slightly below average crop. It started heading last week, but there is no rain in sight. The last moisture they received was 2 inches of snow on May 11.

In north central Kansas, Mike McClellan of Plainville, said his wheat is filling nicely and looks good. He estimates harvest will begin around July 1, adding that the heat may make it sooner.

Farther to the east near Lebanon, Theron Haresnape said the wheat has started looking better over the past two weeks because they received some rain. "The freeze hurt us bad," he said, adding that it really burnt the wheat down. He is hopeful that the wheat will average 30 bushels per acre in the area, but some fields are going to be as low as 10.

In northeast Kansas, Nathan Larson of Riley reports that his wheat looked bad in the fall, but looks good now. He said there's plenty of moisture, and it's almost too wet. Harvest will begin in the latter part of June.

Jay Armstrong, of Muscotah, says they've had too much water in the area, but survived the freeze OK. He is seeing smaller wheat heads with fewer kernels but estimates yields will be in the 40s and 50s.

In central Kansas, Ken Wood from Chapman said the wheat in his area also looks a little better than it did a couple weeks ago. They received 7-10 inches of rain over Memorial Day weekend, stating that they have "gobs of moisture" in the area. The wheat is variable, but overall, it looks to be an average or better than average crop.

Justin Knopf, who farms near Gypsum in central Kansas, agreed.

"A lot has changed in the last two weeks," he said. "The rain we've had and the cooler temperatures have been ideal and have helped to maintain yield potential." He said they did loose primary tillers during the freeze, but the biggest concern in the area is stripe rust. It has caused a lot of damage to untreated fields. He estimates that 50-60% of acres in the area were treated with a fungicide.

Doug Keesling, of Chase, reports that wheat in his area varies in maturity from just starting to head a few days ago to turning color. He said this year is "not going to be anything spectacular."