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Wheat Harvest Progresses to Northern Kansas

The 2015 winter wheat harvest has stretched from Texas to Nebraska this week with variable yields and quality in every field. 

Temperatures above 90 degrees in all four states have helped harvesters get in the fields and stay there, and the promise of dry weather for the next several days should keep combines in full swing. 

In its daily harvest reports, the trade organization Kansas Wheat says wheat yields in that state range generally from 30 to 50 bushels per acre, although there are reports of wheat yielding in the teens, and some farmers reporting yields greater than 100 bushels per acre. 

Justin Gilpin, chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat, told, "This is an extremely variable year. Many farmers are reporting better than expected yields and excellent test weights." 

The best yields come mostly from fields sprayed with fungicide during the growing season, which helped to thwart leaf diseases that came on strong in late spring.

"We sprayed everything but 100 acres of wheat that we thought wasn't going to make it. Fungicide application made a huge difference," says Ryan Speer, who farms near Sedgwick, Kansas. 

Speer's wheat yields range from 20 to 100 bushels per acre in dryland and irrigated acres, averaging about 60 bushels per acre.  

The winter wheat crop has been through a lot in 2014-15, including winterkill, a dry early spring, flooding in late spring and the onslaught of disease close to harvest. "I can't believe how resilient this crop is, given all it has been through since we planted it last fall," he says.

Test weights hover around the 60 pounds-per-bushel industry benchmark. Late-season disease and weed pressure hurt test weights in some areas of the Wheat Belt before harvest; early harvest rains took some of the top off test weight in the last few weeks, Gilpin adds. 

In much of western Kansas, the 2015 harvest is a vast improvement over last year's wheat harvest. 

In its June 24 Harvest Report, Kansas Wheat references Ken Jameson, manager at Garden City Co-op in Garden City, Kansas, saying this will most likely be a better year for averages in the area, with the exception of areas around Ulysses (many fields were zeroed out by adjusters due to drought) and Dighton (severe hailstorms struck the area in mid-May).

Just like last year, the late-season rains have promoted weed growth in Kansas. "The heat has really slowed the weeds down, but if we get another rain, we'll be having some major issues," Jameson says.

As harvest wraps up in Oklahoma and Texas, yields range from 20 to 50 bushels per acre. Plains Grains, Inc., a hard red winter wheat quality tracking firm based in Oklahoma, issues Harvest Summaries each week during harvest. The June 19 report indicates the Texas and Oklahoma wheat crop is averaging 12.2% protein, with 58.4-pounds-per-bushel test weight. 

Protein content is a signal of quality to millers and bakers. Too much or too little protein requires millers to blend wheat from different regions in order to achieve optimal quality.

With favorable harvest weather expected next week, wheat harvest should wrap up in Texas and Oklahoma and move swiftly through Kansas and Nebraska.

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