Wichita — Years of drought. Spring freezes. Harvest rains.
Just when Kansas farmers thought nothing more could possibly go wrong with this year's winter wheat crop comes news of yet another blow: sprouting in the kernels.
Still unknown is how widespread the damage is.
The Kansas Grain Inspection Service started getting the first calls Thursday morning from elevators as farmers got back into soggy fields to resume harvest, said Tom Meyer, president of the KGIS.
Inspectors will be working today to collect samples to determine the extent of sprout damage. But Meyer said Friday he expected to find it.
"We are pretty sure it is there because everybody is talking about it and they know," Meyer said. "It is just how much there is and how much of the crop it affects. If it is going to be predominantly in the northwest part of the state, there are not a whole lot of bushels to harvest up there to start out."
In Colby, the state harvest office reported some sprout damage in many areas Friday, with Atwood showing sprout damage only in white wheat varieties.
The Kansas Association of Wheat Growers also reported in its harvest update Friday that the Winona Feed and Grain elevator found sprout damage -- mainly in the white wheat varieties, but also in the red.
Places in arid western Kansas have received more rain in the past 10 days than they have gotten the entire year, state climatologist Mary Knapp said.
In the past 10 days, for example, Tribune has gotten 6.87 inches of rain, including 2.27 inches that fell in a single day. Council Grove got a total of 8.58 inches during the same time.
Drought-plagued northwest Kansas averaged 2.28 inches of rain the past 10 days; normally it would get just 1.73 inches. West-central Kansas averaged 4.85 inches, far above the 1 inch that would be more typical for the area at this time.
South-central Kansas received an average of 3.31 inches, far above the 1.36 inches it gets under normal conditions.
"From the standpoint of improving drought conditions, this has been good," Knapp said. "From the standpoint of harvesting, it is not such a good turn of events."
Kansas has not had the wind and high temperatures it normally gets during harvest time, she said. Making matters worse, humidity levels have been running a high 70 percent to 80 percent range.
Many areas have had rain the last seven of 10 days, Knapp said. That is good for penetrating the ground and boosting subsoil moisture but not so good for harvest because it creates conditions for sprouting.
"It was hot and dry when the wheat was getting started, then only south-central and southeast Kansas had adequate moisture during the winter. Then there were late (spring) freezes throughout the western part of the state. And now we are finishing off with a wet, damp harvest period," Knapp said. "It is kind of amazing they are getting as much wheat out as they are."
Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service will issue its first wheat-quality bulletin of the season Thursday based on the earliest samples inspected this harvest by the KGIS.
Meyer declined to disclose what that data will show but said his inspectors are telling him there is a lot of No. 2 or higher quality grain being cut in Kansas.