Farmers may be harvesting Marion County wheat by Memorial Day this year.
In the past, wheat normally was harvested after the Fourth of July; more recently, new varieties have ripened in mid-to-late-June. But this year’s weather- induced change is a little mind boggling.
Wheat heads in fields are rapidly emerging from the boot.
Farmers a week ago were still worrying about what a late frost could do to wheat at that stage. But with no frost predicted in the 10-day forecast, worry is receding.
The only weather change broadly affecting harvest time now is the current cooling trend with daytime temperatures in the 60s.
Agronomist Jeff Mayfield at Ag Service near Hillsboro said that at the end of March, with many 80 and mid-70s days already past, he and many other people were looking for harvest to be three weeks to a month ahead of usual.
Farmers were talking about even wider-spread effects of the early warm weather, such as Brome grass, cheat grass and native grass emerging closer together than usual, and some broad-leafs emerging early.
Mayfield said, barring hail or damaging winds such as happened in some areas Saturday night, most wheat looks to be high-yielding and still receiving normal growth time coming out of the warmer-than-normal winter.
Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft confirmed that some wheat fields in the northern part of the county near Lost Springs were flattened by hail and wind Saturday night. But the county-wide damage was minimal.
Yields in some areas could be “tremendous” if everything goes right, Mayfield said.
“It’s a very good yield pattern,” he said.
Many fields indicated light disease infestation, Mayfield said. He had noted mild infestations of barley yellow dwarf, wheat streak mosaic and stripe mosaic.
Many farmers seem to be looking at possible earlier planting of second crops such as soybeans or milo following the wheat harvest. With wheat selling in the $7-a-bushel range, and other crops commanding above- average prices, it could shape up to be a better income year, one producer said.
Across the state, some places were reporting even earlier harvests, coupled with possible problems for scheduling cutting contractors because the timing for harvest in the south and north may be closer than usual.
For instance, at Mulvane farmers were saying harvest could begin a week ahead of Memorial Day.
Mary Knapp, state climatologist, said both February and March were very mild, helping to stimulate early wheat development. The average daily temperature through the two months was 12 degrees warmer than normal, at 54.5 degrees.
James Kohake, a futures trader with Paragon Investments at Silver Lake, said with wheat prices declining slightly and soybean prices rising, especially with the good moisture conditions, he would look for increased soybean planting after the wheat harvest.
The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service rated the Kansas wheat crop this month as 65 percent in “good to excellent”condition, 29 percent “fair” and 6 percent “poor” compared to 2011 ratings of 28, 35 and 37, respectively.