Surprising harvest is nearing completion

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Harvesters north of Scott City were working into the night in order to beat the threat of rain on Sunday.

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Harvesters north of Scott City were working into the night in order to beat the threat of rain on Sunday.

By Rod Haxton, editor

Two months ago, Scott Co-op Manager Gary Friesen had all but written off this year’s wheat crop.

He certainly wasn’t alone as a very dry winter and early spring had taken its toll.

That’s made what he’s seen the last week even more incredible.

“I think we’re seeing some incredible yields,” says Friesen, noting that some dryland acres have produced 50-55 bushels.

Irrigated ground, as one would expect, is averaging in the 60-70 bushel range.

And while 50-55 bushels may not sound “spectacular,” given what the crop had to go through to make that happen is a testament to the hardy nature of wheat.

“You have to say this crop has made an amazing recovery given how it looked in April,” says Friesen.

Not that everyone can boast of similar results. Friesen says there is also a lot of 20-25 bushel wheat being harvested.

Even in fields that may have looked good from the road, the results have been less than impressive once combines began cutting.

“Because of the drought there have been some pretty thin stands,” explains Friesen.

On average, he expects most farmers to see 30-35 bushel yields.

“I think everyone got a little overenthusiastic because of the rains. We felt it would have a little more impact than it actually did,” Friesen says.

He says that, along with providing better yields for some farmers, the unusual amount of moisture may have contributed to disease problems, which has impacted yields in some fields.

“Those who got ahead of the problem and felt they would have a crop worth the cost of fungicide treatment have been rewarded,” Friesen says. “The yields in those fields has been noticeably better.”

Friesen feels the overall harvest will be slightly above last year, which was a below-average crop. But he thinks overall production will be close to the 10-year average.

After a surprisingly slow start, the area’s wheat harvest finally moved into high gear this week with 80-85 percent of the crop cut in Scott County. If the weather cooperates, Friesen expects most activity to be wrapping up over the Fourth of July weekend.

 

Harvest is a little slower in Wichita County with about 65 percent of the crop cut. Friesen says farmers in that area will be cutting well into next week.

 

Lane Wrapping Up

In Lane County, farmers could be done with harvest by the weekend.

Ron Suppes, who farms in western Lane County, was about two-thirds completed with harvest on Thursday afternoon. Like many in the area, yields have been better than expected.

“If the hail would have left us alone we’d be happier,” he notes.

At the same time, he adds that in April he wasn’t expecting yields to top 15 bushels. Production has doubled and even tripled that thanks to heavy rainfall in May.

“Even at 30 bushels, with prices where they are right now, we’re getting a return right at the cost of production or below,” he points out.

Vance Ehmke, who farms south of Amy in western Lane County, is about 98 percent completed with harvest.

He says yields are 85-90 percent of the five-year average. However, farmers south of K96 Highway were battered by a combination of stripe rust and hail.

“The use of fungicides really paid off,” notes Ehmke.

A number of farmers were hesitant about making that investment given the poor yields that were expected two months ago. Those who treated their fields are seeing a 15-25 bushel boost over those fields that weren’t treated, says Ehmke.

“Treated wheat ranged from 35 to 45 bushels an acre while unsprayed wheat was down in the low 20s,” notes Ehmke.

The Lane County farmers has been cutting a lot of 35-45 bushel wheat with some in the 50s “and some approaching 70 bushels with (Colorado State University’s) Byrd.”

He even plants some 250-year-old Turkey Red which yielded 38 bushels, “but we lost half of the stand to wheat streak mosaic.”

Always one to find humor in any situation, Ehmke says, “Neighbors were asking what brand of napalm we used on it.”

He adds that the late spring rains not only aided the wheat crop, but will be a boost to stubble production.

“When you look at the last couple of years, we’re finally seeing rainfall moving in the right direction,” he says, “but you have to wonder if it’s going to last.”

May precipitation was 330 percent of normal on his farm while June was 30 percent of normal.

“Is the drought over? This weather makes you wonder,” he adds.

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