Wheat harvest wraps up on smaller than average local crop

The area wheat harvest has wrapped up for the year with solid yields reported from fewer fields than normal.

Clark Wenger, president of Ottawa Co-op, which owns two elevators in Lawrence, and Steve Wilson, owner of Baldwin Feed Company, said the last of the wheat in local fields was cut last week. If there was one thing that stood out about this year’s harvest, it was the area’s significant reduction in acreage planted in wheat. Wenger and Wilson said about a third fewer acres than average were planted.

Wenger said farmers were making decisions based on grain prices and production cost for different crops.

“It’s really hard to make money growing wheat, so they are planting more corn and soybeans,” he said. “In the southern parts of Kansas near the Oklahoma line, you’re starting to see some cotton.”

Another factor that made farmers leery of planting wheat last fall was the disease that hit area fields in 2016, Wilson said. Fortunately, the disease did not reappear this year, he said.

Yields were “pretty good,” coming in from 30 to 50 bushels per acre, Wenger said. Hard wheat protein content was a bit off, he said.

Hard winter wheat — used to produce bread — continues to dominate local fields, but those planting soft wheat, which brings a higher price but costs more to plant, had yields of as much as 80 bushels per acre, Wenger said. Soft wheat with a lower protein content is used for cake, pastry and pasta flour.

“We’ve seen enough of it the last couple of years to market it separately,” Wenger said.

Things look good right now for the fall harvest, which is far more important to local farmers, Wenger and Wilson said. Rain would be welcome for the corn, they said.

“There’s some beautiful corn fields out there, and beans are coming along,” Wenger said. “We’re going to need rain, or the corn will burn up in a hurry.”

There was less corn planted this spring than on average, Wenger said. About 10 percent of the fields normally planted in corn were planted in soybeans. Once again, grain prices were the determining factor.

Grain prices per bushel quoted Monday at Ottawa Co-op were hard wheat, $4.68; soft wheat, $4.75; corn, $3.33; and soybeans, $9.41.