The 2019 wheat harvest is turning out to be bountiful, but with large yields come worries that wheat quality will be affected.
Wheat is characterized for price by many quality factors, but the most important is protein percentage. The higher the percentage, the better for bakers in the making of yeast breads and rolls.
Yields have been tremendous in some parts of the area, according to Ben Brandvik, grain marketing manager for Goodland-based Frontier Ag Inc., which operates grain elevators stretching from Burlington, Colo., in the west to Ogallah in the east. Harvest is wrapping up at some of Frontier’s eastern elevators, such as WaKeeney and Ransom, while it is still running behind normal start time in Goodland.
“We have been seeing yields anywhere from 60 to 90 bushels per acre,” Brandvik said. “I just talked to a woman in the Grainfield area (Tuesday morning) who reported her wheat at 90 bushels. We’re seeing good yields, good test weights.”
With those yields, however, comes the downside of low protein values, said Dan O’Brien, Kansas State University northwest Extension agricultural economist.
“Lower protein numbers are what we feared as harvest approached. Last year, hard red winter wheat across the country averaged 12.3 percent,” O’Brien said. “We’re a full percentage point behind that this year, according to the latest U.S. Wheat Associates harvest quality report.
“Add to this the rains we’ve had to slow down harvest, and we’ll maybe see moisture having some effect to the quality of the wheat as well.”
The Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center-Hays reported .33 of an inch of rain fell at its reporting station early Tuesday morning. Between protein and higher moisture, there will likely be further decline of the crop.
“Eventually, the mill markets will adjust to these lower numbers,” Brandvik said. “In the meantime, it makes it more difficult to sell. However, we are seeing those protein numbers priced into feed rations today.
“We’ve already made sales to feedlots of this type of wheat. It’ll be used as a substitute for corn, but that’s for the lowest of the low protein wheat.”
The difference in price for wheat across the area compared with the price at Kansas City — the terminal market for the hard red winter wheat Kansas farmers grow — has shrunk in recent months as worries about low protein content began to emerge.
“Depending on where you ship, we’re looking at basis between 40 and 50 cents,” Brandvik said. Earlier in the year, basis was as high as 90 cents per bushel. As of midday Tuesday, Midland Marketing of Hays was offering a cash bid of $3.84 per bushel. With a basis offer of 52 cents, the price for near-month Kansas City wheat was $4.35¾ per bushel.
Frontier Ag is offering premium prices for wheat with higher protein content, Brandvik said.
“For wheat that is higher protein, we’ll offer a 20 percent premium above posted price. That’s for folks who maybe sprayed a little extra fertilizer on their crop and had the stars and the moon align just right.”
The overall condition of the Kansas wheat crop was rated 4 percent very poor, 11 percent poor, 27 percent fair, 42 percent good, and 16 percent excellent. Winter wheat mature was 92 percent. Harvested was 61 percent, well behind 89 percent last year and 84 percent for the five-year average, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Corn condition rated 2 percent very poor, 9 poor, 36 fair, 44 good, and 9 excellent. Corn silking was 19 percent, well behind 45 last year, and behind 38 average. Dough was 1 percent, near 5 last year and 3 average.
Soybean condition rated 2 percent very poor, 8 percent poor, 44 percent fair, 41 percent good, and 5 percent excellent. Soybeans planted was 94 percent , behind 100 percent last year, and near 97 percent average. Emerged was 89 percent, behind 98 percent last year, and near 93 percent average. Blooming was 7 percent percent, well behind 35 percent last year, and behind 20 percent average.
Sorghum condition was rated 1 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 26 percent fair, 63 percent good, and 6 percent excellent. Sorghum planted was 95 percent, near 98 percent both last year and average. Headed was 5 percent, near 6 percent last year and 4 percent average.