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Wheat harvest nearly finished

Jun 16, 2016 at 09:11 AM CST

Yields, quality up — prices not the best

Wheat harvest in Cowley is wrapping up with reports of good yields and above-standard test weights. However, grain prices are somewhat low — around $4 per bushel, around $2 or more under recent highs.

Several area elevators have reported high yields, good test weights and excellent moisture levels. Harvest is estimated to be around 80 to 85-percent complete, but likely to continue through the week at a slower pace.

Jason Nittler, manager of the Two Rivers Co-op in Gueda Springs and the elevators near Ashton, said reported high yields and quality grain was being harvested west of Arkansas City.

“The wheat is looking really good,” Nittler said. “I’ve seen yields from 30 to 75 bushels. … I’d say the average has been around 60 bushels per acre.”

Nittler said the lower yielding operations had grazed cattle on the wheat earlier in the year. He said there has been some striped rust reported by farmers, but nothing serious.

“The quality has been good and is staying good,” he said. “Everyone should be pleased.”

Two Rivers Coop Feed Mill Manager Ed Crittenden said he has seen slightly lower yields at the Ark City location, topping around 40 bushels per acre, with test weights averaging 62 pounds per bushel. Despite a lower volume, quality is still comparable to other elevators.

Crittenden said the standard for weight is around 60 pounds per bushel and that 62 pounds is a “good heavy weight.

“We are seeing some really good quality grain,” Crittenden said.

The heaviest weight reported from the area at this point has been 65.3 pounds per bushel.

A lowered grain market and a bumper crop don’t always coincide, though.

“It doesn’t seem like we can have both at the same time,” Crittenden said.

Grain prices have hovered around the $4 mark — much lower than the high of $7.48 per bushel, reported by the state in 2012, or even the $6.02 reported for 2014.

Crittenden said his location has had a really good week, although the Ark City Two Rivers doesn’t take in as many trucks, with elevators west of town seeing a higher volume of grain coming in. He estimated the harvest around 80 percent complete for the area.

Nittler estimated harvest to be around 85 percent finished in his area, but said it will likely continue through the week if conditions remain dry.

“If the rain will hold off, people will harvest all week — it will slow down though,” he said.

The Two Rivers locations west of Ark City were taking in 85,000 to 95,000 bushels a day last week, according to Nittler. He said grain volume this week will probably drop to 50,000 bushels or less daily.

Jill Zimmerman, agricultural agent for the Cowley County K-State extension office, said wheat harvest has been a mixed bag for producers this year due to the low price.

“What we are blessed with are good yields, and high test weights,” she said.

Other than low market price, there has been a few issues in Cowley County. Zimmerman said there have been some cases of hail damage and striped rust — enough to cause trouble for some areas.

She said producers who sprayed for rust were seeing an increase of five to eight bushels more per acre than others who didn’t treat their wheat. She added that protein levels in the grain are down this year, but are not really a factor in the market value of the grain at local elevators.

“We are going to have a good crop,” Zimmerman said. “If you get enough bushels, it can make up for the price.”

May was a tough month for those attempting to plant soybeans, but was excellent weather for growing wheat. This will lead to an increase of farmers planting their single-crop soybeans at the same time as their double-crop fields, according to Zimmerman.

A good soybean crop, planted after the wheat is harvested, may be the saving grace of some operations.

“There’s a lot of acres of wheat here,” Zimmerman said. “It does play a critical part in our crop rotation.”