Moisture Hampering Northwest Kansas Harvest

Northwest Kansas has been struggling to get into a harvest rhythm. With high humidity and scattered showers, combines can’t begin rolling until mid-afternoon in most cases. Overall, harvest is getting started about 10 days to two weeks later than normal. Multiple thunderstorms have come through the area, bringing with them large hail and causing significant losses in wheat fields that are just teetering on being dry enough to harvest.

Lisa Schemm from Sharon Springs reports that their harvest started on July 4, about 10 days later than normal. They still have about six days of harvest left when fields dry out, but they’ve been struggling with high moisture and finding fields that are ready.

“This has been one of the latest harvests to get started,” Schemm said, noting it will be, by far, the latest to finish.

Yields have ranged from 30 bushels per acre on fields with hail damage to 55 bushels per acre on dryland to 87 bushels per acre on irrigated land. Test weights have held steady at 60 to 61 pounds, for now. Protein is 12 percent and better.

The Schemm family is fighting weeds and suckerheads, which have been continuing to stall their harvest. Their harvest crew is test cutting several fields but finding moisture is still too high. While annual rainfall averages 18 to 20 inches in their area, they have received all of that average rainfall since mid-May. However, when it comes as quickly as it has, the soils can’t absorb it and benefit as much as they would if it came a little at a time.

Schemm says they planted a little later than others in the area, which may be contributing to their late harvest, but mostly it is caused by the late suckerheads, which are now even taller than the rest of the field, and the high humidity in the area. Their custom harvest crew is strung out across Kansas, with some in Ulysses and others in Sharon Springs. But both crews are struggling to find wheat that’s dry enough to cut. They are scheduled to move on to Montana at the end of next week.

“Why would harvesters want to stay here and wait for it to dry out when there’s good wheat to cut in Montana?” Schemm asked. Even their best wheat has five-foot tall kochia to go along with it. Farmers are having a hard time getting the weeds under control.

In Dodge City, Mike Schmidt, operations manager for Pride Ag Resources, reports harvest started a week late on June 20, but the first big day of cutting was June 26. They received a rain on July 4 and ever since then, harvest has been slow to pick up the pace.

Proteins have been all over the board, reaching as low as 7 to 11 percent, and as high as 14 percent. Test weights started out strong, reaching as high as 63 to 64 pounds per bushel; however, as harvest progresses, the test weights have gone down and they are now seeing test weights around 59 to 60 pounds per bushel.

Back in April around Easter, the area received rain in the northern portion of their territory. This saved some fields and got the crop over the hump to potentially be harvested. The southern half was not as fortunate and missed those rain events.

Some farmers in the area have had to control weeds, which not only pushes off harvest, but is yet another costly input to apply to a very short crop.

Although they have not reached Schmidt’s projection yet, he anticipates seeing a third of the wheat they usually bring in. It is still early yet, however, since there are lots of acres left to be cut.

Wheat that comes into the Dodge City facility usually goes to the gulf for export, but not currently. Instead, this wheat will be loaded onto trains to either go to Wichita mills, terminals or off to California.

In North Central Kansas, Mike Jordan from Mitchell County reports that they finished up their harvest on July 4.

“We were some of the last to finish; everybody around us was done around the 4 and 5 of July,” he explained. Jordan says that about one-third of all the fields in his area were abandoned due to thin and weedy wheat. They did not see any hail damage on their crop.

Jordan reports that he was getting good proteins on his wheat, ranging from 13 to 16 percent. They sacrificed yields for this high protein; however, those being just about 12 bushels per acre. His whole farm average landed in the teens this year, unable to pull through the abnormal weather and the effects of these changing patterns.

All of Jordan’s fields are no-till, and he said that some in the area have had continuous wheat yielding in the 30’s, with some even breaking 40 bushels per acre.

“If you wanted to walk across the fields stepping on the wheat plants along the way, you would be doing a lot of jumping,” Jordan notes. In Jordan’s years of farming, he says that he hasn’t experienced a wheat crop this bad since 1989.

“We are really just living rain to rain at this point,” he laments. He continues to say that, although their wheat crop struggled, there is corn in the area that could turn out well. Jordan is quick to acknowledge that, despite this discouraging wheat crop, there is hope for this year for surrounding farmers.

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The 2023 Harvest Report is brought to you by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas Grain and Feed Association and the Kansas Cooperative Council. To follow along with harvest updates on Twitter, use #wheatharvest23. Tag us at @kansaswheat on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to share your harvest story and photos.