Archive for Friday, May 27, 2011

Drought continues to hurt outlook for Kansas wheat

May 27, 2011


— Drought conditions continue to take a toll on the Kansas wheat crop as more acres of land slip beyond hope of significant harvest.

The Kansas regional director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency says farmers have collected insurance on about 90,000 acres, largely in western Kansas.

Rebecca Davis told The Hutchinson News that she toured Lane County fields to assess damage. She said thousands of acres were being released each week for other uses.

"It's overwhelming," Davis said.

The Kansas Agricultural Statistic Service says more than half the wheat crop is in poor condition.

About 60 percent of Kansas is in a moderate to exceptional drought as measured by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The remainder of Kansas is considered abnormally dry.

Drought conditions stretch across much of the High Plains from Texas into southwest Kansas. Joey Kuehler, a crop consultant with Dodge City based Servi-Tech, said many of the counties will not have much of a wheat harvest, unless the land is irrigated.

"I don't think more than 5 or 10 percent will be taken to harvest," he said, adding that "there is so little dryland wheat that remains."

Rainfall hasn't been significant in the region for nearly a year. Moisture that does fall quickly evaporates from hot temperatures and high winds near 50 mph.

Kuehler said a few areas might yield 20 bushels of wheat an acre, while irrigated land that normally averages 70 bushels or more will be closer to 40 to 50 bushels an acre. Farmers are comparing conditions to 1956 when farmers in Haskell County harvested nearly no crop at all.

"It's significant out here," he said. "It's good to have $10 wheat, but, then again, if you don't have anything to cut ... it's a shame we can't take advantage of it and get a home run."

Wheat prices Thursday in Hutchinson were nearing $9 a bushel in some locations, reflecting a surge in priced due to global shortages.

Conditions aren't much better in south-central Kansas.

Kent Martin, a Kansas State University Southwest Kansas Extension agronomist, said farmers who planted crops with decent moisture last fall are watching plants struggle to keep pace.

"There are areas that will make 20-bushel yields," Martin said. "Then there are also a lot that won't come close to that. It'll depend a lot on tillage type, what we lost on moisture and how we retained it."

Martin said farmers are seeing crops falter under stress from the conditions. Kansas State has abandoned its field trial plot in Tribune, he said, and may do the same in Garden City because of the drought.

The Barber County town of Kiowa typically sees the first signs of wheat harvest in Kansas. Dennis Carroll, assistant manager of OK Co-op Grain, said he expects the elevator to take in only half of a normal crop. Recent rains that have hit parts of Kansas missed his area.

Storms that did come during the week also brought hail that damaged fields instead of giving the rain farmers needed.

The National Weather Service said hail covered the ground and was as much as 6-inches deep along buildings in Morton County in extreme southwest Kansas, coupled with 60-mph winds. Hail in Lane County was golf-ball sized and 2 inches deep.

"We did have some hail come through and it beat up some wheat pretty good," said Sean Bookstore, agronomy manager at Elkhart Co-op Equity Exchange in Morton County. "We'll have a wheat harvest, but it won't be that great.

"I would say if we get 25 percent of an average crop, we'd be doing well."


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