Purchase photos

Wheat harvest quickly approaching in northwest Kansas

5/18/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

RIVERSIDE -- A digital camera hanging from his neck, Gary Gantz watched intently as crews installed the massive four-piece scale to weigh trucks laden with wheat.

Appearing calm, he faces a proverbial dilemma: Farmers need rain to boost harvest prospects for both wheat and fall crops, but his D.E. Bondurant Grain needs good weather to complete construction of the company's 400,000-bushel grain elevator in the southern reaches of Ness County.

"I think for the first time in my life, we'll see wheat on Memorial Day," Gantz said of when harvest will start.

He's confident the grain elevator will be ready.

"By this time next week, we'll have everything running," he said.

But the bumper crop Gantz had been hoping for is all but gone.

"We're losing bushels every day," he said. "We had such great potential."

While there will be yields of 30 to 35 bushels per acre in the Ness City area, Gantz said many fields will only produce 20 to 25 bushels per acre.

Some fields won't even be cut, including land planted to a crop each year.

Continued warm temperatures, a lack of rain and disease is putting the crunch on fields, now showing signs of a withering crop.

"Wheat can handle a lot of stress and disease," Gantz said, "if its got plenty of moisture."

Many acres were sprayed with fungicides to ward off the effects of disease, and he thinks that still will prove to be a good investment.

That's in part due to high crop prices, already being pushed higher by market reaction to the struggling crop.

"I hope we've got enough moisture it doesn't shrivel down at the end," Gantz said of the berries of grain farmers will harvest.

Most surprising, however, is how early the crop is progressing.

"I don't know if we've ever taken new wheat in prior to the 10th of June," Gantz said.

And he won't be surprised at all to see wheat delivered yet this month.

"I don't think that's a stretch at all," he said.