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With Harvest in Progress, Kansas Farmers Report on Snow-Damaged Wheat

Despite the late blizzard that caused considerable concern about the Kansas winter wheat crop, farmers report that, overall, the crop looks better than expected.

Marc Ramsey, who farms near Scott City in western Kansas, received 14 inches of snow on April 30 that knocked down trees and wheat fields, as shown in the photo below. Surprisingly, he said that the snow may have helped more than it hurt.

“The moisture was badly needed and apparently the stems weren’t damaged badly enough across acreage to make a huge impact,” he says. “Some wheat is lodged, but it seemed to fill decently through the heat.”

Ramsey is just getting started on wheat harvest, but he says test weights have been in the 58 to 60 range. “Yields were above average, but protein is in the 9 to 10 range, so nothing special there,” he adds. “Accounts from area farmers are saying you either have quantity or quality, but more often than not you don’t get both.”

ramsey-farms
Ramsey Farms on April 30

Eric Sperber, manager of Cornerstone Ag, LLC in Colby about an hour north of Ramsey’s farm, heard similar comments from the farmers in his area.

“Most people were pleasantly surprised at the lack of impact from the snow,” he said during a report with the Kansas Wheat Commission. “One farmer had an early planted field that looked like a mess after the snow. It stood back up, but fell over again at grainfill. He wasn’t expecting much, but it ended up yielding 60 bushels per acre and over 60 pounds per bushel.”

An hour northeast from Colby in Norton, Kansas, Chris Tanner also got hit with the late-April snowstorm. “When the snow was laying on the wheat, I thought it was dead and done for,” said Tanner in the Kansas Wheat harvest report. “After that there was a little bit of a dry spell that wasn’t good for it, but it’s been pretty resilient. They say wheat has nine lives, but this crop is on its tenth or eleventh.”

He adds that condition has varied with test weights from 58 to 62 pounds per bushel and yields from 20 up to 80 bushels per acre. However, he says that variation is mainly based on planting date and wheat variety.

While hail and rain have slowed down winter wheat harvest in western Kansas, across the state winter wheat harvest is progressing almost right on pace with the five-year average with 73% complete compared to 72%, according to this week’s USDA Crop Progress Report. As far as the condition goes, the USDA reports that 47% is in good to excellent condition, 31% fair, 14% poor, and 8% very poor. This is on par with the rest of the country’s winter wheat crop – 48% is in good to excellent condition – but it is trailing last year’s crop when 62% was rated as good or excellent at this time.

Not surprising given the condition ratings, the USDA is predicting a lower yielding wheat crop compared with last year. According to the USDA’s Crop Production report, winter wheat yields for Kansas are forecast at 44 bushels per acre, down from 57 bushels per acre last year.

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