Farmers forecast profitable crop

County wheat harvest expected to arrive early

The misfortune of wheat farmers in western Kansas may end up a boon to Douglas County producers.

Farmers said Tuesday the Lawrence-area wheat crop was above average and they were optimistic about receiving good prices at harvest time.

Reports from western Kansas indicate a below-average crop, news that has been driving up the price of wheat on the futures market.

“We could have the best of both worlds this time,” said Bobby Gabriel, a Eudora-area farmer. “We’re already seeing wheat that is 60 cents or 70 cents higher than it was at this time last year.”

The July futures contract on the Kansas City Board of Trade rose a half cent Tuesday to close at $3.84 per bushel. The closing price a year ago was $3.30.

Bill Wood, agriculture agent for the Douglas County Extension Service, said that barring rain this week, harvest could begin next week. That would be one or two weeks earlier than usual.

“There are some fields that are looking pretty promising this year,” Wood said. “The weather hasn’t treated it too bad. I think you would have to say the spring has been pretty good to us.”

He estimated Douglas County wheat yields would average near 50 bushels per acre. That’s less than last year’s exceptional crop of 64 bushels per acre, but is above the county’s five-year average of 44 bushels per acre.

Steve Wilson, owner of Baldwin Feed and Grain, said he expected harvest to be completed by the Fourth of July. He also said farmers would be keeping a close eye on reports from western Kansas.

Wheat ripens in a field north of Lawrence. Douglas County farmers said Tuesday that they expected to begin harvesting their crops next week if weather conditions remain dry. They are expecting an above-average crop.

“The wheat out west will drive the market prices,” Wilson said. “If they have a worse-than-predicted yield, the price could stay high or even get a little higher.”

Although last year’s area wheat crop was among the best on record, corn and soybean crops have suffered through drought-like conditions the past four years. Wood said that has led some farmers to begin planting more wheat.

Douglas County farmers planted 5,800 acres of wheat in 2002 and 8,900 acres in 2003.

Statistics for 2004 weren’t available, but Eudora farmer Mark Neis said he was confident area farmers planted more wheat this year. Neis increased his wheat acreage by 60 percent, he said.