Written by Aleen Ratzlaff Wednesday, 18 July 2007 10:53
Poor. Terrible. Disaster.
That’s the consensus about this year’s wheat harvest, according to managers at area elevators.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Stan Utting, who manages Tampa’s Agri Producers Inc.
Utting views this year’s harvest from a perspective of 30 years of experience.
“The yields were bad, the quality was bad, the dockage was bad,” he said.
Dockage refers to the weed seed and other foreign matter that diminishes a grain’s value.
Uttting said fields around Tampa averaged a yield of bushels per acre “in the ’teens.”
“We probably got about 25 to 30 percent of an average harvest,” he said.
Some fields turned in as little as three bushels per acre, he said, while a few more-fortunate ones “made right around 30 (bushels per acre).”
In response to 30-bushel yields, Curtis Frick of Agri Producers in Durham said, “We didn’t hear anything like that from the farmers around here.”
Near Durham, yields ranged from none—for those who chose not to harvest their crop—and 18 to 19 bushels per acre, “and everything in-between,” Frick added.
He said an average year usually produces 35 to 40 bushels per acre.
“It all depends on the year,” Frick said.
“There are guys who have been around here a lot longer than me, and the old timers say they have never seen a wheat harvest like this.”
In some areas, weather conditions extended harvest beyond its usual length.
“It’s taking such a long time to harvest because of all the rain delays,” said grain manager Dick Tippin of Cooperative Grain & Supply, which receives grain from Hillsboro, Marion, Canada, Lehigh and Canton.
“It’s been disappointing, I guess, for both the farmers and the elevators.”
Tippin estimated the average yield was 15 to 20 bushels per acre this season.
“Around here, an average year would yield 40 bushels per acre,” he said.
Like many fields in the county, the average weight tested less than 55 pounds per bushel, said Phil Timkin, who manages Farmers (Mid-Kansas) Grain Cooperative in Peabody.
“The average (test weight) was 53 to 54 pounds, but that may be be a little high after we get these last loads in,” Timkin said. “We should probably say 52 average. What’s coming in now is almost all below 50 pounds.”
Last year’s crop, however, was exceptionally good quality.
“This (year’s) is just the opposite,” he said.
According to Timkin, yields in his area averaged 12 to 14 bushels per acre, with a couple high yields of 35.
“We had some wheat appraised at two bushels (per acre),” he said.
A few farmers are still harvesting near Peabody.
“We’re on the last 10 percent—I hope, I hope,” Timkin added.
Several factors have contributed to the overall poor yield.
“The cold and snow did a lot of damage,” said Tippin. “The wheat just didn’t have enough time to recuperate and come out. And then disease came in, which also did damage to the wheat, like leaf diseases. With the thin stand, it just kind of made it worse.”
Frick said the late snowfall was another factor.
“The snowfall was a big contributor, too, knocking it all down after that,” he said.
Farmers are done with harvest in the Durham area.
“They finished up or they just quit,” Frick said. “The stubble field and everything’s getting real weedy now and the high fuel prices—they’re not sure whether it’s worth it.”
Less rain around Durham kept farmers in the fields.
“Nothing was mudded out of fields around here,” Frick said. “We weren’t getting the rains like Hillsboro and (further) south were.
“When they would get an inch or 11⁄2 inches of rain, we’d get a quarter-inch rain. We may have gotten rain as many times, but we just didn’t have a significant amount.”
If there’s a redeeming factor this year, it’s the price of wheat at $5.69 per bushel, up at least $2 from 2006, according to Timkin.
Now farmers and elevator managers are anticipating a good harvest in fall.
“We’re hoping the fall crops will come through and make up for the poor wheat quality,” Frick said.
“So far, so good.”
But what’s memorable for sure is this year’s wheat harvest.
“This (year) was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime things, I guess,” Frick said. “We’ll always refer back to ‘Remember back in ’07.’”