Farmers in the Lawrence area are gearing up for fall harvest.
Combines are expected to rumble to life as early as next week in the Lawrence area as farmers begin harvesting the 1997 corn crop.
"We have some early season corn that, if it stays hot like this, could be harvested next week," said Art Johnson, Jefferson County extension director. "It's not going to be full-force, but it could get going."
The first cuttings will mark the start of a busy season for local farmers. Unlike many Kansas farmers, whose bread-and-butter crop is wheat and whose prime harvest time is mid-summer, northeast Kansas crop producers rely more on fall-harvested corn and soybeans.
Farmers in Douglas County, for instance, grew about 50,000 acres of corn and beans, compared to 18,000 acres of wheat, in 1995. By comparison, McPherson County farmers grew 223,000 acres of wheat, compared to only about 17,000 acres of corn and 20,000 acres of beans, in 1995.
As fall harvest approaches, the outlook for local crops is mixed.
Mark Pine, elevator operator for the Farmers Cooperative Assn. in Tonganoxie, described the area corn crop as "mediocre."
"I don't think it's going to be a record year," he said.
Garry Keeler, Douglas County agriculture extension agent, agreed with Pine's assessment.
He said this year's corn wouldn't compare with the 1996 crop, which produced a record 2.5 million bushels in Douglas County. Countywide yield last year was 111 bushels per acre, well above the average yield of 80 to 85 bushels.
"I think we'll probably be average, maybe not quite, this year," Keeler said. "But we're a lot better than a lot of the state is."
Pine said area farmers should have a better idea of their crops' condition in mid-September, when the corn harvest begins in earnest.
Although the corn crop was held in check by dry weather, rainfall within the past two weeks has spurred good growth in soybeans and grain sorghum.
"It made all the difference in the world on soybeans," Johnson said. "I've been on a couple of commercial tours this week, and in all cases, the beans look pretty good."
Bean harvest is expected to begin in late September or early October. Farmers can remain in the fields through December, cutting fall crops.
"Last year, the harvest wasn't over with until the second week in January," Pine said. "There were big delays, with all the rain and snow. The ground was too muddy, so they had to pick the days they could harvest.
"Usually, though, it lasts into November."