Rain halts surprisingly good harvest

Staff writer

Rod Just and his father, Eugene Just, said Friday they were pleased about how their wheat harvest had gone so far, with yields around 20 bushels per acre. The father-son duo typically farm together during the summer and average yields around 40 bushels per acre on a good year.

“Last year it was a great year, so comparing it to this year is sad, but we’re happy because it could have been much worse,” Rod Just said.

They completed cutting most of their wheat by Friday, although one patch that was too wet and green was left. Now that it is ripe enough, rain throughout the area this week has left them unable to get into fields.

“We work our ground after cutting,” Rod Just said. “So we could get started earlier when the ground was wetter because we weren’t worried about creating ruts in the fields. We can work those out with a disk, but no-till farmers, they have to wait until the ground dries enough to not have ruts.”

Despite a few scattered green fields the majority of Marion County farmers found dry land to cut last week. Area elevators estimate harvest to be anywhere from 30 to 75 percent complete across the county with Durham being around 30 percent cut, Hillsboro and Marion at 50 percent, Peabody at 55 percent, and Burns at 75 percent.

However, rains totaling from 1 to 2 inches across the county have brought harvest to a screeching halt, and with rain in the forecast today and Thursday, it might be early next week before farmers can return to the fields.

“I think we’re going to have a quality problem now,” Peabody Mid-Kansas Cooperative manager Phil Timken said. “If we catch more rain now we can lose grain weight and quality will go down.”

Timken said that if wheat sits in fields too long and conditions are right, it could sprout while in the head and ruin the seed. While that process takes time, large amounts of moisture and the added sunlight wheat plants are getting because of their sparseness can cause things to grow faster.

Elevators across the county are also reporting that farmers are pleased overall about yields, which are ranging from 15 to 60 bushels an acre.

“Things are going well and better than expected,” said Burns Mid-Kansas Cooperative manager Matt Porter. “It’s substantially less than last year but most farmers recognize that last year was better than some have ever had, and they’re still surprised about yields this season.”

The difference in yields, according to Timken, is due to small differences.

“In the spring some only got a shower and some didn’t get any rain, because moisture was so spotty, how people farmed made a huge difference,” Timken said.

The difference lies in how the wheat was planted. Timken said wheat planted back to wheat or wheat planted after corn seemed to be producing better yields, where those, like Just, who worked the ground were seeing smaller yields.

“Small changes made a big difference. No-till is doing better because it allows the ground to hold more moisture than disking,” Timken said.

Weeds are also becoming an issue, Marion Cooperative Grain and Supply manager Mike Thomas said. Short, sparse fields are allowing sunlight to get to the ground and weeds to grow thicker and taller, clogging headers.

“The weeds are coming up like crazy,” Thomas said. “Several people have sprayed already to get rid of them.”

He said around Marion, most farmers are just trying to stay out of the mud.

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