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Kansas wheat harvest wraps up Week 3Kansas wheat harvest wraps up Week 3

Slow and steady will win the race to get the crop in the bin, but challenges remain.

Jennifer M. Latzke

July 3, 2023

4 Min Read
Close-up of wheat against sky
HARVEST IN PROGRESS: Kansas farmers wrapped up week 3 of harvest June 29, reports Kansas Wheat, with varied results.danahann/Getty Images

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service crop progress report for the week ending June 25 shows that the Kansas wheat harvest is 21% complete — that’s well behind the 54% harvest completion this same time last year, and the 38% five-year average.

The report rated the wheat crop condition as 53% poor to very poor, with 31% fair and 16% good to excellent.

The Kansas Wheat Harvest reports from the week of June 26 tell of the weather finally turning hot and dry enough for some farmers to finally get into their fields to begin harvest in earnest.

Rice County

Brian Sieker, who farms near Chase, in south-central Kansas, reports he’s cutting a sparse wheat crop a few miles west of Chase this year. While the crop had a good start in the fall, the moisture turned off in the winter, and the wheat used up any residual moisture. He reported some neighbors opted to abandon their wheat and move on to a different crop.

For the fields Sieker was able to cut, yields ranged from a high mid-thirties down into the teens. Moisture was normal at 11%, and test weights in some of his nearby fields were doing fairly well at 60 pounds per bushel.

“You go farther west, they have it worse,” Sieker says. “We are just thankful to have some fields worth cutting.”

Montgomery County

Jesse Muller farms in Montgomery County, in eastern Kansas, which escaped much of the extreme drought conditions of the rest of the state.

Muller reported a wide variety of yields, from 20 bushels per acre to a high of 70 to 80 bushels and above. He planted a Kansas Wheat Alliance variety with excellent head scab tolerance, which helped him reach test weights of an average of 60 pounds per bushel or more. He attributed the better-than-expected yields to planting behind corn and using up the excess nitrogen from last year, as well as being lucky to be in the pocket of the state that received timely rains.

Rush and Ellis counties

Dale Younker has been farming for more than 30 years, and this year he chose to terminate his entire wheat crop and plant it all back to grain sorghum. He farms in northern Rush and southern Ellis counties, and according to the Kansas Wheat Harvest Report, he says all of his winter wheat appraised between 1.5 to 3 bushels per acre — back before rains started falling in the first week of May and into June.

The area is still in exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, despite rains the last two months. That’s good for Younker’s grain sorghum, which was planted into decent conditions, but he says it will need more rain to take that crop to harvest.

Younker reported that he and his crew did break out the harvest equipment to help a neighbor cut wheat northeast of LaCrosse, Kan., and they saw significantly lower yields, with one field making around 20 bushels per acre and the other just into the low 30s. Test weights were also down, at 58.5 to 59 pounds per bushel.

Challenges and bright spots

Troy Presley, of CoMark Equity Alliance, says he expects their 75 locations in Kansas will take in 40% to 45% of a normal crop this year. But that’s just the tip of the story.

He reported that the inverted market environment, storage issues from higher dockage due to weeds, the logistics of a stop-and-go harvest, and trying to forecast whether farmers will sell their wheat now or store it for later are just some of the challenges they’re dealing with this harvest.

There is a bright spot in Kansas, though, and that’s the small pockets of soft red winter (SRW) wheat in far southeastern Kansas and northeast Kansas.

According to Kansas Wheat, SRW typically yields higher than hard red winter (HRW) wheat, but has lower protein content of 8.5% to 10.5%. Its soft endosperm and weak gluten make it more useful for specialty products like spongecakes, cookies and crackers — unlike HRW, which is a bread wheat.

Jay Armstrong plants SRW near Muscotah, Kan., in Atchison County. He reported that he put on 160 pounds of nitrogen, fungicide and seed treatments on his SRW crop. Combined with a near-perfect amount of rainfall, he said his Pioneer 25R74 wheat averaged 94 bushels per acre across the farm, with test weights between 60 and 61 pounds per bushel. He’ll bin this crop for later delivery to mills near Kansas City, making sure to keep it segregated from any HRW.

The 2023 Harvest Report is a collaboration among the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas Grain and Feed Association and the Kansas Cooperative Council. Read more at kswheat.com.

Source: Kansas Wheat contributed to this story.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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