McPHERSON - Autumn arrives in Kansas this week, but for Monte Dossett, the annual fall harvest has been commencing for a few weeks.

In early September, the busy season was just beginning. Dossett sat inside a tractor pulling a grain cart as his father, Johnnie, chomped through a field of dryland corn just south of McPherson, noting this year isn't a yield breaker - at least for his farm.

But it's not a bad harvest, either.

After a dry spring, he puts it into a matter-of-fact perspective: "If you would have told me what we would average at the beginning of the year, we would have taken it," Monte Dossett said.

For Kansas farmers, this is one of the busier seasons of the year. They are harvesting corn, milo, beans and sunflowers. Some will be stripping cotton. All the while, they are hoping for rain so they can sow in their winter wheat.

An increase in milo acreage, also called grain sorghum, plus plentiful rains that have bolstered yields for both corn and milo, have elevators bracing for the onslaught of commodities this fall. Even western Kansas, where farmers have suffered a string of droughts, has been blessed with rainfall.

Dossett said his dryland corn will average somewhere in the 90-bushel range, but added one field topped nearly 130 bushels an acre.

"It caught a little more rain or something," he said. "It definitely outshined the others."

Bright spot

After a dry start of 2015, rains began pouring in late April and May. The Hutchinson area received nearly eight inches of rain in May alone - more than three inches above normal.

Rain has been a bit more sparse in the latter part of the summer, especially in this pocket of McPherson County where Dossett farms. Fall crop yields could have really augmented if August and September rainfall would have been more plentiful, Dossett said. 

"The dryland soybeans took it in the chin," Dossett said, adding yields are in the 20-bushel-an-acre range.

Other crops are average to above average, he said, including irrigated beans and corn. 

However, Dossett said of this fall's harvest, "Overall, it looks pretty good."

Near Turon, Cody Barilla said he had just finished harvesting irrigated corn and was moving combines Monday morning. Some of his irrigated corn has hit highs of 230 bushels an acre, he said.

In its latest crop report released Monday afternoon, the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service rated both corn and beans at about 30 percent fair and 57 percent good to excellent. 

Milo is the state's bright spot this year. KASS has forecast milo production up nearly 20 percent. The Monday report rated the crop as 65 percent good to excellent.

"We could have an awfully good fall harvest," said Craig Bennett, general manager at the Farmers Co-op at Abbyville. 

In west-central Kansas, at the Scott City-based Scott Cooperative Association, Interim Manager Ron Kershner said harvest is just getting started.

Last year was a good harvest, thanks to summer rainfall.

However, he said, "Last year was pretty decent, but I think this year will beat it. We went through five years of drought out here - and this one could be pretty phenomenal."

Low prices

There will be a fair amount of grain on the ground, Kershner added, especially with a carryover of wheat from June's harvest.

With low commodity prices, farmers are holding on to their wheat crop. Prices are down for fall commodities, as well.

"It is going to be very thin margins," Kershner said of fall harvest. "But the higher yields will help."

Prices at Hutchinson terminals are averaging around $4.50 a bushel for wheat - a $1.65 drop from a year ago. Soybeans have dipped nearly $5 and corn is down $1.30 from prices a year ago this month.

"It's not a pretty picture on grain prices," said Abbyville's Bennett. He added that, at least in the short term, prices aren't going to get much better. "We aren't going to see a huge bump in anything."

Turon's Barilla, a crop consultant, estimated his dryland corn ranging anywhere between 60 and 100 bushels an acre, noting it just needed more moisture.

He figured on his irrigated fields he would have a little bit of a margin, but on the dryland, he would need above 80 bushels an acre, most likely, to stay in the black with today's crop prices and higher input costs.

Rain needed

Usually, it rains at least once during the Kansas State Fair.

The fair ended Sunday, and this year, those rains never came.

It's been a dry late summer, but Scott City's Kershner was optimistic about precipitation prospects for later in the week.

It would help some fall crops. Moreover, farmers need it to start planting wheat, Kershner said.  

Dossett said he and his father would begin planting after Oct. 1. They also need a good rain - especially before planting, so he can take care of weeds and volunteer wheat issues that might emerge. 

One National Weather Service station near Hutchinson has reported just a half-inch of rain so far in September, compared to the normal 2.66 for the month. The Garden City area has received only 0.03 of an inch since Sept. 1. Ness City has received 0.88 of an inch. 

After a deluge of rain in late April and May diminished drought conditions, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows abnormally dry conditions developing in northwest Kansas.