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2015 Wheat Harvest Mostly In the Bin


The winter wheat harvest has made its way north through Kansas and moving into southern Nebraska, but it’s not without its challenges.

The Kansas Wheat Board harvest report said most farmers in the south finished up their harvest just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, and farmers in the north are close to being done. The harvest is also making its way into some southern counties of Nebraska as well. The biggest challenge to harvest progress is steady rainfall in both states.

“What we’re hearing the most is harvest has been better than expected,” said Marsha Boswell, director of communications for Kansas Wheat. “The May rains really helped with grain fill. However, there are some spots that were hit by disease and weed pressures.

“We saw stripe rust break out through most of the state,” said Boswell. “We also heard of damage from head scab, as well as pockets of vomitoxin in northeast and southeast Kansas.”

Boswell said the recent National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) forecast puts the Kansas wheat harvest at a 38 bushel per acre average, and that’s a big improvement from where they saw things in April.

“Test weights in Kansas are averaging around 58-60 pounds per bushel,” said Boswell. “The protein content is also a little scattered, but seems to be around 12-12.5 percent, on average.”

Boswell added, “I think Kansas is pretty close to being completely done with harvest.”

Consistent progress in Nebraska has been harder to come by.

The Panhandle areas struggled with cold and wet weather through spring and well into summer. The southern Panhandle was able to begin harvesting before the northern Panhandle area by as much as a week to 10 days. Sawflies were seen in the northern Panhandle, but not much damage has been reported.

Southwest Nebraska harvest is in progress. South central Nebraska has been struggling with rain, but harvest is anywhere from 20-50 percent done in most areas.

“It’s been a fair harvest with yields all over the boards, “ said Brian Schaefer, who farms near Culbertson, in southern Nebraska. “If someone took good care of their wheat, they’re going to see 50-60 bushel yields. In the areas where stripe rust hit, if you didn’t take care of your wheat, you’ll see 20 bushel differences between treated and untreated wheat.”

Schaefer said they began harvesting on the first of July.

“We’ve cut wheat anywhere from 20 all the way to 70 bushel yields,” he said. “Most of the fields we have left look pretty good.”

Variable results have also shown up in the Kansas winter wheat harvest. The Kansas Wheat website (www.kswheat.com) reports that Brian Linin, who farms near Goodland, started his harvest on the Fourth of July.

He reported harvest results in his better fields of 70 bushels per acre. Similar to what Schaefer reported in Nebraska, Linin said applying fungicides on his fields paid off. On the other side of the ledger, certain fields were only yielding 15 bushels per acre, which is a mirror image of harvest results around the state.

Linin also reports 60-pound test weights with 11 percent moisture.

Other farmers have faced significant harvest delays, including Larry Flohr, who farms near Chappell, in the southern Nebraska Panhandle. Cool, wet weather literally put a damper on any chance of early harvesting.

“Cool and wet weather really slowed us down,” he said. “We’d normally have been cutting by the second or third of July. Our high temps one day didn’t make 70, and another couple of days were right at 70 degrees with some mist.”

He added, “We’ve also picked up some rain in small amounts, but when you’re trying to harvest wheat that’s not quite ready yet, that’s a problem.”

Virtually all the farmers in his part of Nebraska had to wait and watch farmers in the rest of the state make harvest progress.

“No one I know of was able to start early, or even on time, for that matter,” said Flohr. “One 80 acre field I know of had some Mosaic disease in it and ripened early. Other than that, we sat here greasing combines, cleaning cabs and getting augers ready well into summer when we should have been harvesting.”

Wheat fields across Nebraska and Kansas have been through a lot since last fall. Flohr said wild swings in temperatures through winter and into spring were hard on his wheat, and on fields across the region.

“We had the best fall planting conditions we thought we’ve ever had,” said Flohr. “We had great growth in the fall, and going into winter, I thought it was the best wheat we’d ever seen.”

It turned cold in November, and Flohr said the temps fell a long way in a very short time.

“It went from overnight temps near 65 degrees, to almost 10 and 20 below zero virtually overnight,” Flohr said. “Of course, wheat would prefer that to be more gradual. Then came the winterkill issues.”

A warm spell in January was also hard on winter wheat on his farm and across the region.

“It warmed up so much the wheat almost started to turn green again,” Flohr said. “We got hit again after that with cold weather, and I think that’s what did the winterkill damage.”

As many farmers across Kansas and Nebraska know too well, the spring and summer have been cool and wet, even in some of the normally drier areas.

“We walked out the other day to work on pivots, and we had jackets on, said Schaefer from southwest Nebraska. “You know, we’ve even eaten supper in the wheat fields with our coats on, and that’s just not right.”

They don’t typically get a lot of rain there either.

“Our annual rainfall is right around 18 inches a year,” said Schaefer, who does run irrigation on some wheat fields. “I’d say really we get more in the 14 inch range. I’d bet for this year we’re already pushing up to 8 inches so far.”

Sharon Springs, Kan., farmer David Schemm saw some freeze damage as well.

He told Kansas Wheat he’s 80 percent done with harvest. He also saw variable yields, with some fields at 29 bushels per acre, and others getting into the 40s. He noted more freeze damage than he originally anticipated. Schemm said his crew saw 70-bushel straw, but only 35 bushel an acre yields.

Schemm added, “We were disappointed to harvest good straw but get lower yields. However, it was encouraging to see more residue in the process than in previous years.”

Test weights for Schemm ranged from 57-60 pounds, while protein content was 11.5-11.9.

The July 13 Crop Progress Report put the Kansas winter wheat harvest at 93 percent complete. The report put the Nebraska winter wheat harvest at 27 percent complete, but behind the 38 percent 5-year average. The wheat crop listed at 86 percent mature, well ahead of the 5-year average.

Source: Midwest Producer

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