Chuck Hindman rolled the big truck onto the scale at Midland Marketing’s Toulon elevator Thursday afternoon, one of just a few handfuls of vehicles bringing in their first loads of wheat in the 2019 harvest.
Driving for RJW Farms of Hays, Hindman said he thought harvest would really step up the next day — and it did.
Toulon took in 96,000 bushels on Friday, doubling the 48,000 bushels received Thursday, said Dennis Kregar, Toulon coordinator for Midland Marketing, on Saturday morning.
“It’s been such a slow start, but now with this hot weather, it’ll really take off,” Kregar said. “We’ve been seeing test weights at 61 to 63 pounds and moisture way down to 11 and 12 percent.”
Melanie Moeder, who was working the scale house, said her commute as a teacher has made her notice how the wheat changed color from Hays to near the state’s northern border almost at the same time.
“I drive back and forth from Phillipsburg to teach, and the wheat is really turning fast all over. All of a sudden, it just took off,” Moeder said.
“It took a long time to get it started, but once it did, it’s really taken off. It’s sort of at a right time, too, when you think about it. We’re coming up on July 4. Family will be coming in for the holiday, but I’m sure a lot of families will be coming in on the weekend before to help with harvest, too.”
The harvest is days behind normal, according Justin Gilpin, chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat, but it was expected given conditions at planting time. Many area farmers would already be done with their wheat harvest, but due to cool weather and rain delays — including the wettest May on record statewide — Kansas has experienced one of its latest starts.
Mostly depending upon planting dates and amount of moisture, harvest has begun in some areas to the north even before their neighbors to the south have started. With combines beginning to roll, farmers are finding the silver lining in this year's wheat harvest, Gilpin said.
“What a year,” Gilpin said. “The crop has faced many challenges, starting with acres not getting planted in the fall. Now that we are finally getting in the field, we are seeing a lot variability statewide, due to those tough conditions.
“Also, we are seeing some harvest results out west that weathered those challenges and are being blessed with a really good wheat crop.”
Reports from farmers gathered by Kansas Wheat reflect the variability Gilpin expressed.
Chris Boyd, a farmer in Medicine Lodge — a place known as one of the earliest starting areas of Kansas — just began harvesting Thursday. He’s usually finished by June 30, but the late start caused by additional showers last weekend brought his harvest to a halt for a few days. Boyd told Kansas Wheat his yields are really spotty in the fields and doesn't have enough wheat cut yet to report yield averages.
Derek Sawyer, who farms near McPherson, told Kansas Wheat the harvest is off to a late start, and he’s fighting mud in his fields. Thursday was a good day, meaning it was a dry one. Sawyer's yields are all over, he said, ranging from 30 to 75 bushels per acre within the same field. With obstacles such as machinery breakdowns, Sawyer is powering through his wheat harvest.
"It all just depends on how much rain sat there and the slope of the field; some places are better than others," Sawyer said.
Hot temperatures are expected through the weekend across the area, though high humidity may stall the harvest in a few northern counties. A heat advisory was posted by the National Weather Service for Saturday and Sunday for Phillips, Smith, Jewell, Rooks, Osborne and Mitchell counties.