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combine harvesting wheat
HARVEST ROLLS: Kansas Wheat Harvest was in full swing across the state on Father’s Day. With hot, dry, windy days and many fields with below-average yields, harvest was moving fast.

Drought toll on wheat crop visible; yields vary widely

Fields in areas lucky enough to get rain have reported yields as high as 75 bushels per acre.

Full swing by Father’s Day is the norm for hard red winter wheat harvest in Kansas and 2018 is no exception, even though the crop got off to a late start, plagued with a very dry winter and early spring and a couple of late freezes.

However, the arrival of hot days and dry winds in the last half of May and the first half of June sped up the ripening of the crop and harvest started pretty much on time.

Harvest reports have been all over the board with some fields hard hit by drought having yields as low as the teens and mid-20s and others, which got a few timely rains, making as high as 55 bushels per acre.

Paul Penner, who farms in Marion County and writes "A View From the Hill" columns for Kansas Farmer, says he’s seen some fields a little below 30 bushels, but most have been in the 35- to 55-bushel range with test weights right at 60 pounds per bushel.

"How well it did just depends on which fields got the rain and which didn’t," Penner says. His home farm is in a region of Kansas that showed "extreme drought" on the June 14 U.S. Drought Monitor Map.

Dave Lane in Sedgwick County says he started harvest on June 5 and immediately encountered a problem with heads that did not thresh well.

"It was like the kernels were in there with superglue or something," he says. "I’ve seen this before in years when we had drought and late wheat, and then it turned off really hot. It’s like it died before it was mature. We messed around for six days and then on the seventh, we quit looking behind us and it went better."

Jacquelyne Leffler, a farmer near Americus in Lyon County, was quoted in the daily Kansas Wheat harvest report on June 14, saying the best field for Leffler, Inc. was more than 75 bushels to the acre with fungicide and timely sprinkles of rain. Other fields ranged from 36, 52 and 63 bushels with protein coming in at 12%, a little better than the last couple of years.

Combines were running full force over the Father’s Day weekend, with farmers doing their best to cut as much as possible ahead of a forecast that promised at least a chance of rain over a lot of the state. While that will slow down the harvest, most farmers will welcome the moisture, which is badly needed both in ranch country and to help parched corn, soybean and cotton fields.

As of June 14, about 66% of the state was in moderate-to-severe drought, with the hardest hit areas in southwest Kansas and a swath in central Kansas that includes some of the Flint Hills.

Wabaunsee County rancher Joe Carpenter says that grass is holding up well so far, but the water situation is "dire." He says that with weaning time approaching, he is having to work around pastures with no water supply to move cattle.

TAGS: Weather
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