Albert Balzer has experienced nearly 80 wheat harvests in his life.
This wheat crop isn’t the best he’s raised, but it is one of the better ones.
“We’ve had some make 70” bushels an acre, said the 89-year-old Inman-area farmer. “It’s been another good wheat harvest.”
Sometimes everything aligns in the wheat field – and this, it seems, is one of those years. After a dry start to the year, crop-saving rains fell in April – helping produce a bountiful wheat crop.
This year is one of the better ones.
Yields around Anthony “are probably historical for the county,” said Dan Cashier, general manager at Anthony Farmers Cooperative Elevator, which is based in the Harper County seat town.
The cooperative has binned about half the crop, he said. He has heard of yields as high as 83 bushels an acre. Most are between 50 and 70 – well above average.
Test weights have been high – well above the 60-pound benchmark for No. 1-grade wheat. He said they received a 66.5 pounds a bushel test weight Monday night.
“You don’t see that very often,” he said.
Cutting through thick stands of wheat is a good sight after a string of drought-stricken crops.
“We haven’t had a good crop in five years,” he said, adding. “This is nice – we haven’t had one of these crops in 19 years.
“This is really a blessing,” Cashier said.
For the most part, farmers across south-central and southwestern Kansas are just getting into the full swing of harvest.
Kingman County farmer Greg Hageman said he was seeing great yields so far. While some of his sandier ground was in the 30-bushel range, other fields were as high as 70 bushels an acre.
Erik Lange, Mid-Kansas Cooperative’s director of southern operations, said the cooperative is seeing yields 5 to 10 bushels above average – with some farmers reporting yields as high as 80 bushels an acre on dryland, as well.
Some, however, are as low as 25, he added.
“We have been pleasantly surprised,” he said. “It’s just fantastic.”
Harvest in the MKC territory has moved north as far as Talmage in Dickinson County, he said. At the MKC terminal in Canton, employees dumped 767 trucks on Monday and Lange expected them to see more on Tuesday.
Test weights are averaging 61 to 62 pounds a bushel.
But with good filling of the berries comes another issue, he said. Protein levels “have been less than perfect,” averaging 10.5 percent.
A typical protein benchmark is 12.
At Iuka-based Kanza Co-op in Pratt County, Joe Bob Lewton said harvest was just getting started, as well. With temperatures hitting the triple-digits later this week, harvest should be rolling by mid-week.
Meanwhile, at Stafford County Flour Mill’s Sylvia location, Kelly Griffin said he, too, is hearing gossip of high yields.
There are also going to be some lower ones, he said. Some of the more stressed wheat is yielding in the 40- and 50-bushel range.
Test weights are averaging between 55 to 62.5 pounds a bushel, which could be caused from a difference in planting time, whether farmers sprayed for stripe rust or, possibly drought and freeze damage.
Meanwhile, Kansas Wheat is reporting yields of up to 60 bushels an acre at Meade Co-op.
“While last year’s crop around here was decent, the previous three years had been very drought stricken,” said General Manager Randy Ackerman. “This year’s wheat is looking like it will be above average.”
At Halstead, the Farmers Co-op Elevator is reporting test weights of 61 pounds a bushel with yields ranging from 40-50 bushels an acre.
But with great yields and soft global markets comes lower prices. Anthony’s Cashier said the price at his location was around $3.70.
It might be enough to make a small profit, but not enough for farmers to buy a tractor or something else, he said.
Also, there could be issues with storage, Cashier said. The cooperative’s wheat is shipped to terminals in Kansas and Oklahoma.
MKC’s Lange said at present, the cooperative doesn’t have huge storage concerns, but added that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be isolated issues as the bountiful crop comes in. A bigger concern might be fall harvest if those crops, too, are high yielding.
Patrick Burke, with Omaha-based Gavilon Grain, which has a terminal in Wichita, said the the U.S. Department of Agriculture has indicated wheat stocks are the largest since 2011 and 40 percent higher than a year ago.
That said, this year’s crop production is expected to be 10 to 15 percent higher than a year ago.
“Based on this information, there could be a constraint on space in the area,” he said. “Gavilon is planning to use our large global network to help the farmer receive the best price and find the right destination for their wheat.”
As for Balzer, who will turn 90 this fall, he said his family’s wheat harvest finished up Tuesday. He was able to make a few rounds in the combine this year.
“When you have driven a combine as much as I have, you don’t have to think,” he said with a chuckle.