Wheat harvest draws to close in Kansas

Farmers generally happier with this year's crop

? Jose Avalos liked what he saw Wednesday as he toured the wheat fields and grain elevators of western Kansas.

Avalos, vice president of the Mexican milling firm Altex, was among its five top officials checking out this year’s Kansas wheat harvest.

“We are very well impressed, outstanding quality. Everything we are seeing is great, the protein levels, test weights, dockage low. We are very excited,” Avalos said.

That was sweet praise to Justin Gilpin, project coordinator for the Kansas Wheat Commission. Gilpin was taking Mexico’s largest wheat buyer around Garden City, Dodge City and Scott City.

“We were able to meet the people not only growing the wheat, but also loading the wheat and delivering the wheat,” Gilpin said. “It is building those relationships.”

Altex, the largest milling group in Mexico, mills 25 million bushels of wheat a year for their Mexican plants and an additional 5 million bushels for their Cuban mills, Avalos said.

“We are looking for supply sources for our mills,” he said.

At the Kansas Wheat Growers Assn., member program director Dana Hoffman estimated that two-thirds of the state was more than 80 percent done with harvest.

“Overall we are showing pretty average production volume,” she said. “We are showing really good test weights from the first loads in to some of the last loads in.”

Test weights across the state have been averaging 59 pounds per bushel or better, Hoffman said.

Wheat harvest offices in Great Bend, Greensburg, Kinsley, Lyons, Garden City, Hays and Dodge City were closed as another harvest draws to an end in those parts of the state.

The bulk of harvest activity now is in northwest Kansas. On Wednesday, the Thomas County harvest office reported half the wheat crop has been cut around Hoxie, Rexford and Atwood.

In Colby, wheat grower Mike Brown was busy moving headers and combines to another field. He, too, is about halfway through harvest.

“After two to three years of drought, it is nice to have something close to harvest,” Brown said.

Brown figured he has been getting yields of about 30 to 50 bushels per acre. For the most part, farmers are pleased with the way the crop looks this year, he said.

His fall harvest of other crops last year was average. But this is the first good wheat crop that he has had in years, he said.

A little to the south in Winona, Tom Schertz was in his combine Wednesday cutting wheat. It is so dry here that whenever a truck goes by on the powdery dirt roads, it kicks up so much dust he can’t see the wheat in front of the combine.

While Schertz is glad because he needs the dry weather to finish harvesting his wheat, he also worries about his corn crop.

Overall, Schertz’s wheat crop is much better than a year ago, although the late spring freeze, drought and disease have all taken their toll.

“I’ve had two fields that were really poor, and I think I have one more,” he said. “Overall they are really good or really bad this year – there doesn’t seem to be any in-between to them.”