At any other time of the year, rain would be more than welcome. But for farmers with combines ready to roll, harvest delays due to rain add insult to injury for a crop stricken by drought. For some, however, rains arrived just in time to fill grain heads, resulting in better-than-expected final results.
Near Americus, America, harvest is in full swing for Jacqueline Leffler. Starting strong at the beginning of the week, fields are averaging 50-70 bushels per acre – a welcome result given the dry year. Quality is excellent with high test weights at 61 to 62.5 pounds per bushel and protein at 13.1 percent. The outstanding variety for the year is the aptly named Polansky Rockstar. She expects to wrap up harvest with three or four more big days.
“I am pleasantly surprised with how this year’s harvest is going,” Leffler said.
Only four or five producers are cutting near Delphos in Ottawa County, according to Brett Courson, general manager of the Delphos Coop Association. Results thus far are coming in at 10 to 20 bushels per acre with fairly poor test weights, but protein is averaging 15 percent and no dockage.
The wheat is ripe, but the straw is still a little tough. Courson expects producers who applied fungicide won’t start harvesting for another eight to 10 days, but that wheat should be better and could average up closer to 40 bushels per acre.
The variability in the wheat crop reflects the timing of moisture this season. The wheat was stressed until heading out with moisture seven to eight inches short. Then the rain started to fall and helped fill kernels. Unfortunately, the area had a considerable amount of freeze damage, which was sporadic at first, but then yellow and white heads started to spread out across fields.
“There are fields that look pretty good, but you go out in them and there might only be seven to eight kernels in the head, but the next head has 30,” Courson said.
Delphos Coop Association is hoping to bring in around 500,000 bushels, about half of their normal amount. The majority of that wheat is destined for flour mills in the Kansas City area.
The Kansas Wheat team caught up with Tim Turek near South Haven in Sumner County on Tuesday evening before rains halted harvest progress on Wednesday morning. Having started harvest on June 15, Turek reported yields are about half of average, but a field of continuous wheat planted to AP18 AX from AgriPro yielded 50 bushels per acre. Test weights ahead of the rain were heavy at more than 60 pounds per bushel and protein was excellent at 12 to 16 percent.
The wheat had a good stand last fall but was still hampered by drought conditions. The crop needed a good rain at heading, but three weeks without appreciable moisture meant the stands lost tillers. Not all hope was lost, however, as rain did fall.
“Then the cool and damp weather came in and allowed a lot of good grain fill for the heads we had,” Turek said. “The grain fill is what has made our yields.”
Now, though, the recent rain is preventing harvest from kicking into full swing. The moisture also means weeds are coming in, and producers are trying to get fields cut before they take over. Turek expects harvest to last another two weeks.
He is a certified seed grower, but what isn’t saved for next fall’s planting will be delivered to Scoular in Wellington. There, preferred varieties will be sent on to Grain Craft flour mill.
Turek’s family has been farming in the area since his great-great-grandfather moved from Nebraska to Oklahoma during the historic land run. His great-grandfather moved into southern Kansas in the 1920s and bought five quarters of ground. That land is still being farmed, along with other acres in the area, by Turek, his daughter Paige, his father and his brother.
“We all work together,” he said. “Jill, my wife, keeps us fed.”
More rain is expected Thursday night into Friday morning, likely to slow harvest progress. Stay tuned for the next harvest report on Monday, June 26, as the Kansas Wheat crew catches up with more elevators and growers across the state.
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 Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share your harvest story and photos.