KANSAS CITY — Producers and analysts say the drought-starved Kansas wheat crop that a few weeks ago appeared better than expected, was now average to disappointing after some areas were pummeled by hail.
“Truly it was hail that was the name of the game,” said Jeanne Falk Jones, multi-county specialist in agronomy at Kansas State University Research and Extension.
“What could have been really high potential wheat was lost during the hail storms,” Mrs. Jones told Kansas Wheat. “We are thankful for the wheat that we got during the growing season. We had a few really good past harvests and this year was kind of a letdown. We were getting 60 to 80 bus. The dry conditions just really took it out on the wheat.”
Kansas winter wheat harvested as of July 15 was 99%, above 97% last year and 95% as the recent five-year average, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in the Kansas Crop Progress and Condition Report from the Northern Plains field office in Manhattan.
The area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 7.3 million acres, the report said, up 5% from a year ago, but unchanged from the June estimate. This would be 95% of the planted acres, above last year’s 91% harvested.
Harvest began June 26 in the Sunflower District — Wallace, Sherman and Cheyenne counties in far Northwest Kansas — and was nearly complete except for some hail-damaged areas. The region had a dry drilling season and no fall tillers, which forced reliance on spring tillers.
Drought during the spring growing season further damaged the premature crop. Yields in the region varied widely, as did test weights, which ranged from 52 to 64 lbs per bu.
“From what I’ve seen the variable of wheat has been driven by hail,” Mrs. Jones said. “Wheat that wasn't harvested was because it got hit with a lot of hail.”
Volunteer weeds were a noticeable issue following mid-summer rain, Mrs. Jones said, and recommended producers include weed control in plans for the next growing season.
Kansas winter wheat production as of July 1 was forecast at 277 million bus, down 17% from last year but up 7 million bus from the June forecast, the U.S.D.A. said. Average yield is forecast at 38 bus per acre, down 10 bus from 2017 but up 1 bu from June.
“It was a pretty average year for us,” said Chris Tanner, who harvested his Norton County acres from July 1-11. He said it was a typical harvest other than decreased acreage and a later start date. Rain kept his team out of the field for a couple of days.
“A couple of months ago I would have said that this year’s harvest would be a complete failure, but with the timely rain — the crop really needed it, which was good for harvest,” he said.
Mr. Tanner reported yields from 32 to 74 bus per acre, where continuous crop averaged around 50 to 60 bus per acre. Test weights averaged around 59 to 62 lbs. per bu.
“What’s different this year is less acres in the county, which means less time in the lines at the elevators,” Mr. Tanner told Kansas Wheat for its Day 17 final harvest report. “It just makes for a quicker harvest.”
Farmer Brian Linin harvested his Sherman county acreage between June 28 and July 8, beating his average completion date by a week, which he attributed to an extra combine.
He said yields were better than expected for fields spared from the hail and could reach 90 bus per acre, while the remainder would be in the single digits.
“We didn’t have any test weights below 60 lbs per bu,” he said. “When we first cut, we had test weights up to 62 to 63 lbs per bu. Our proteins were high, ranging from 11.8% to 14%, but on average, it was 12% to 13%.
“In comparison to past harvests, this year bushels were down some, quality was higher because of the rain and I would also say due to the genetics.
“The hail surprised us this year. My dad told me this is the most hail he had ever seen in one area in his life. We had more hail than expected but the wheat was good given its conditions it went through.”
The Kansas Wheat Commission produces the harvest reports in collaboration with the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Grain and Feed Association.
Though #wheatharvest18 is nearly complete in Kansas, searching the hashtag on Twitter continues to offer photos, videos and commentary on the harvest in other states and countries. Producers this week tweeted about wheat harvest in southeast Wisconsin; Delmont, S.D.; Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Canada; and Thorold, Ontario, Canada.