Kansas wheat harvest a story of ‘haves and have-nots’

Draw a vertical line across Kansas about halfway across – and that’s the difference between an outstanding wheat harvest and a spotty one.

Central Kansas is seeing a phenomenal 2013 wheat harvest, with yields in a few places reaching an “almost unheard of” 100 bushels an acre, according to Larry Goerzen, grain coordinator for Mid-Kansas Co-op, which is based in Moundridge. But go west and the drought starts to cut into the yields.

The farther west you go, the deeper the cuts.

Harvest is about 90 percent complete in south-central Kansas and about 65 percent to 70 percent complete statewide.

Terry Kohler, general manager of Farmers Co-op in Garden Plain, said harvest has been good at his elevators in western Sedgwick, northern Sumner and eastern Kingman and Reno counties.

“We’ve seen yields probably better than we thought they would be, but there’s lot of variability on test weights and yields in the same fields, even,” he said. “It could be the specific variety, or the place in the field. We had a pretty harsh winter and cool spring, with maybe three chances at a damaging freeze. But, with all that said, we were blessed with snow in late February and timely rains.”

He is estimating the majority of farmers will see average yields better than 40 bushels an acre, with some over 50.

“We were expecting a wreck, and instead we got this strong harvest,” he said. “I almost feel ashamed at the crop we had compared to those further west.”

Goerzen, whose Mid-Kansas Co-op covers dozens of central Kansas elevators from Sedgwick County to north of Abilene, said the harvest was overwhelming.

They were surprised by taking in 10 percent more than expected and 50 percent more than their average.

The yields range from 40 bushels an acre up to 100, with many fields in the 70 to 80 range. Goerzen estimated the average at close to 60 bushels per acre, “which makes it an amazing year so far,” he said.

He said conditions worked out extremely well in all phases, beginning in the fall when the wheat was planted.

Kansas, as expected, saw a distinct drop-off in wheat quality and yields about halfway across the state, said Bill Spiegel, communications manager for the Kansas Wheat Commission.

“I would say that Highway 14 is a good dividing between the haves and have-nots,” he said, of a highway that runs through Sterling, Lyons and Beloit.

The commission reports that western Kansas yields bounced around but ranged from the 30s and 40s in more central counties down to an average 25 bushels per acre in the Dodge City area and 20 in the Garden City area. In counties along the Colorado line, many fields produced just 5 or 15 bushels an acre, while others were long ago turned over to insurance adjusters.

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