Wheat harvest winding down in Kansas farm fields

WICHITA | The 2009 Kansas wheat harvest has wound down across most of Kansas, with 83 percent of the crop now in the bin, Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said Monday.

In its weekly crop update, the agency reported the timing of harvest lags just slightly behind an average year. Usually this late in the season, 84 percent of the crop has been harvested.

Most harvest activity now is in the state's northwest corner, where 24 percent of the crop has been cut, the state agency said. In southeast and south-central Kansas, the wheat harvest was 97 percent finished. In southwest Kansas, about 90 percent was done.

Wheat typically ripens first in the southernmost counties in Kansas, with the harvest moving northward. The agency reported 98 percent of the crop left in the field in Kansas is ready to cut.

“We don't know the size of the Kansas crop yet, although we know the acreage is down so we will have a smaller crop than last year,” said Mike Woolverton, Kansas State University grain marketing economist.

Yields have varied widely across the state. Some of the wheat is good quality, while some is very low in protein with low test weights, he said.

For wheat still in the field, the latest update Monday rated 18 percent still in excellent condition, with 45 percent in good condition. About 25 percent is in fair shape, with 12 percent in poor to very poor condition.

For those farmers with crops safely in the bin, some still grapple with how best to market their grain. Some locked in prices last year, when wheat was hitting $9.50 a bushel or more, for grain this season.

But many others shied away from such forward contracting, fearful that drought, hail or some other calamity would prevent them from delivering their promised crop. For them, the fall of market prices this year from those record levels leaves them with some hard marketing decisions to make.

There is going to be a lot of global competition for poor-quality wheat. That became clear last week when some Russian wheat was selling for less than $5 a bushel, hurting the market for the soft red wheat harvested in the Corn Belt states that goes into livestock feed, Woolverton said.

Those farmers with wheat having low test weights and low protein might want to sell that poor quality wheat as the opportunity arises, he said.

Among other major Kansas crops:

— Corn condition is rated as 16 percent excellent, 52 percent good, 25 percent fair, 5 percent poor and 2 percent very poor.

— Sorghum condition is rated as 8 percent excellent, 71 percent good, 18 percent fair, 2 percent poor, and 1 percent very poor.

— Soybeans were rated as 11 percent excellent, 59 percent good, 27 percent fair, and 3 percent poor.