GARDEN PLAIN — Despite the drought, many farmers in northwestern Sedgwick County and neighboring areas were pleased with how well their wheat crop was progressing— right up until early Thursday evening.
That's when storms blasted their fields with hail of up to 4.25 inches in diameter. Farmers in the area were about halfway done with their harvest.
Fields between Goddard and Garden Plain were hit especially hard, said Sedgwick County Extension Agent Gary Cramer.
Unharvested fields showed evidence of the damage. The majority of the wheat stalks were broken, with the heads bent over. Many of the wheat kernels were stripped off and lay in the mud.
Farmers say it is possible to still harvest the bent stalks using special attachments on the combine cutter heads. One farmer estimated harvesting the hail-damaged stalks would cut in half what would have been about 40-plus bushels per acre.
The damage varied wildly from place to place, depending on the size and duration of the hail. Many fields got nothing; some are a total loss.
Most farmers carry crop insurance and some also carry insurance that covers hail damage specifically.
Cramer said he also heard of crop damage in the Clearwater and Mulvane areas.
The National Weather Service said its reports of large hail were largely confined to western Sedgwick County, especially the northwest quadrant, and the nearby areas of Haven and Burrton.
Cody Schnieder, who lives near Fourth and 247th West, between Garden Plain and Goddard, said he and his family spent Thursday preparing their combines for harvest.
They had hoped to start cutting Friday, in what was an early harvest because of the unusually hot, dry weather.
Instead, they had to take shelter and watch storms drop hail off and on for about 45 minutes.
"Most of the wheat has got some damage," he said.
Mick Rausch, who farms several fields in the Garden Plain area, said his wheat field on 21st Street is in good shape, but the ones farther south are pretty beat up.
His brother-in-law, who owns a farm just off of U.S. 54 near Garden Plain, got it even worse.
"Garden Plain was pretty much ground zero," he said. "On his farm, it looks like somebody cut the wheat, but you can't see the tire tracks. I mean, there's nothing left."