Wellsville farmer Robin Dunn says that after last year's drought local farmers deserve a break, and they seem to have gotten one, in the form of a successful wheat harvest.
As farmers in the Douglas County area wrap up their cutting, yields and test weights have been strong, thanks to a good combination of mild weather and adequate moisture.
"It was exceptional," Steve Wilson, of Baldwin Feed Co. in Baldwin City, said of the local wheat crop, which has averaged about 60 bushels per acre with test weights in the 58 to 60 pounds-per-bushel range. "We've seen of some very high yields, 80 bushels and higher."
The Douglas County harvest is getting finished a little later than usual, having started in late June. Area yields, like those in much of the eastern part of the state, have been above average, because of the long, cool spring and the right amount of rain at the right time. In comparison, the county's 6,200 acres of wheat averaged just 42.6 bushels each in 2012.
"This has been one of those years that farmers hope they will have. They kind of dream about it and — voila — this is the year that it happened," Bill Spiegel, communications director for Kansas Wheat, said of the harvest in eastern Kansas. "Yields have been extremely good, way higher than average for the year."
Farmers in the region have been reporting significantly above-average yields (as high as 90 bushels per acre in some cases), leading Spiegel to call it a "once-in-a-lifetime" harvest. That's compared with western Kansas, where the wheat crop is struggling because of the severe drought conditions.
"It's been a pretty good year for Douglas County wheat," said Bill Wood, director of Douglas County Extension.
He said the cool weather helped prevent the type of diseases that could have adversely affected the crop.
Even though the area's wheat received the right temperatures and amount of moisture, the local corn crop is beginning to tassel and could use some rain and cooler weather, Wood noted. Area soybean farmers are also hoping for precipitation.
Douglas County has also been getting a record hay crop in 2013, another result of the moderate spring temperatures and rain. "Several farmers said they've never seen the brome hay this good," Wood said.
Dunn finished her wheat harvest Monday, nearly a week and a half after it began. She had some acres that yielded 70-75 bushels, while others were closer to 20.
"I'm not going to complain," she said. "I had a field that didn't come up last year because of the drought."
Dunn said 2013 was one of the better years in recent memory for area wheat farmers.
"It's the best wheat I've combined," she said. "The stars were aligned this year."