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Next Generation Farming

Wheat: From Bad to Worse

Rain means grain quality, test weights, will suffer.

This year has gone from bad to worse for anything that has to do with wheat. If stripe rust, low protein, and the worst basis in history weren't enough to ruin your mood, now your fields are probably under water while your combine sits in a few feet of mud.

While on my way to Manhattan, Kansas, on Sunday, I drove through some horrendously torrential rains. All the radio stations stopped beaming music and switched to weather reports and warnings of localized flooding.

It's rained every day since, and even more rain is still on the way in some areas. Farmers in Oklahoma probably have had it the worst, with Oklahoma City area getting more than 10" of rain last Monday. Some places I heard got even as much as 13".

Anyone unfortunate enough to have parked their tractor in a low spot is now probably wondering how they're going to get it out.

All this rain obviously brings harvest to a grinding halt, but it can also cause the quality of wheat to suffer. 

Chris Long, our local ag extension agent for Lane, Ness and Rush counties here in Kansas, says depending on the maturity of the wheat, the rains likely are going to cause test weights to suffer. The longer the wheat sits in the field swelling with moisture and then shrinking as it dries out, the lower the quality of wheat you'll bring in.

Ultimately, that means higher dockage at the elevator, which is already pretty severe in some areas due to the low protein content of this year's crop. If you bring in wheat with a 55-pound test weight, you'll be docked 12 cents/bu. At 50 pounds, the penalty goes to 38 cents/bu. Anything below 50 pounds, meanwhile, is subject to rejection.

Facing those kinds of penalties, there's plenty of incentive to get your crop in without any delay - assuming you can even get into your field.

But there's also a penalty for bringing in wheat that's too wet. If you bring wheat in over 15% moisture, you stand a shrinkage penalty of 2% for every 1% increase in moisture over 13.5%. Now, hurrying to get into the field doesn't look like such a good option anymore.

The only thing you can do is wait, watching money bleed out of your field. 

No doubt about it, this is the year from hell for wheat producers. If you're in Texas and Oklahoma, the situation is particularly bad. But look on the bright side – look at how much money you guys down south got when you decided not to bolt from the Big 12! It sure would be nice if K-State and KU could cut a deal like that.

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