Wichita — The first loads of the 2009 Kansas winter wheat crop have begun coming in, and officials are hopeful that they’ll see good results in the wake of little disease and mostly good growing weather.
The OK Co-Op Grain Co. in Kiowa reported Wednesday that harvest has started “in pretty good fashion” once fields in the area dried from the weekend rains.
Spotty harvest activity was reported as far north as Salina, where the crop typically ripens later.
The Kiowa elevator took in about 250,000 bushels of wheat after cutting began in earnest Tuesday afternoon, said interim manager Kelly Davidson.
Quality is fair with early test weights in the area averaging about 59 pounds per bushel.
Top quality wheat typically has test weights of 60 pounds per bushel or better.
The grain industry anxiously awaits its first hard look at the quality of the new Kansas crop.
“I think we will have a decent harvest. It won’t be any bin breaker, but first word we’re getting out of the field is yield is a little bit better than expected,” Davidson said.
The wheat harvest in Kansas is getting off to a slower start than usual.
The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported on Monday that 9 percent of the Kansas wheat crop is now ripe for harvest. That compares with 12 percent at this time last year.
On average by this late in the season, about 41 percent would be ready to cut, though the delay in itself isn’t expected to hurt the still ripening wheat.
But the longer the crop remains in the field, the more vulnerable it is to violent Kansas storms.
Growers are hoping for at least an average wheat crop this year despite fewer planted acres.
Kansas growers put in just 9 million acres of wheat this season, the fewest winter wheat acres in the past 52 years.
Kiowa is typically the first place in the state to begin wheat harvest, but some harvest activity had started as far north as Salina on Wednesday. Farmers around Arkansas City also had cut a few loads.
“Kiowa and Salina in the same day — can you believe it?” said Dana Peterson, producer policy specialist for Kansas Wheat, a joint venture of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and Kansas Wheat Commission. She said her group is anxious to see the harvest results.
“Given the low crops in Texas and Oklahoma we are hoping the Kansas crop comes in to provide those stocks that are needed to feed those people around the world,” Peterson said.
Salina farmer Joe Kejr cut about 100 acres of winter wheat Tuesday evening, taking some of the first loads of the season into a Salina grain elevator.
The test weights on those early loads were running better than 60 pounds per bushel, he said.
He expects the field he is now cutting to produce more than 40 bushels an acre.
“If it stays dry we are going to be hitting it pretty hard by the weekend,” Kejr said.