Rain halts wheat harvest

Gale Rose
Gannett reporter
More than five inches of rain fell in parts of Stafford County from Friday, June 19 to Sunday, June 21. This field near Hudson won't be seeing combine cutters for some time. Pratt County fields to the north were also inundated with rain amounts in the two-to-three-inch range.

The 2020 wheat harvest came to an abrupt stop just after it had started. While farmers appreciate the rain for the spring crops, the delay is frustrating for farmers and custom cutters who like to get the harvest knocked out as quickly as possible.

A good wheat crop with a high yield doesn't mean a thing until its safely in the grain elevator. So a rain delay adds to the stress of getting the harvest done.

From the early reports, the 2020 wheat harvest could be a good one.

The Stafford County Flour mill in Hudson had just started to get wheat and the first numbers were positive.

Test weights were hitting 61 pounds and protein was ranging from 8.9 to 12. For the flour mill, protein amounts from 11.5 and up are favored, said Reuel Foote, flour mill general manager.

Most of the wheat varieties work well for milling and baking. The quality of wheat is tested at the mill and some is done at an independent lab to assure quality. The mill does a lot of gluten testing on site.

The few reports on bushel per acre are pretty good but its early in the harvest and not that many were in the field.

"We're expecting to get busy but haven't yet," Foote said.

More than five inches of rain fell in parts of Stafford County from Friday, June 19 to Sunday, June 21. A field near Hudson had deep ditches full of standing water, cutting off access for combines.

Cutting around Macksville and Sylvia had also started but the recent rain brought everything to a stop in the region. While its an inconvenience, rain is also a necessity for spring crops and it has been very dry in the area.

"We needed rain," Foote said.

It seemed harvest started all at once, all over Stafford County. Only one of the Kanza Cooperative elevators, their Dillwyn facility that is north of Highway 50 between St. John and Macksville, had not received grain. But with the dry weather, the first loads were expected on June 18 before the rain came, said Jackie Mundt, communications and marketing manager for Kanza Cooperative.

Harvest was expected to get going strong on Thursday, but there was concerns about the rain that showed up and shut harvest down for a while.

The start of harvest is always an exciting time, especially for farmers. Several will take in the first sample. Its usually a little too wet but it only takes a couple of days for it to dry out and for harvest to start.

Not enough has been harvested yet to get good numbers for yield and weight but when things dry out, harvest will be in full swing.

Stafford County Extension Agriculture Agent Amanda Staub said harvest was officially stalled out for now and more rain hit over the weekend to slow things down even more.

Early reports from across the county indicate yields and test weights were good. Yields were reported from 60 bushel per acre to 70 bushel per acre and test weights were strong, ranging from 60 pounds to 64 pounds.

"There's some good wheat out there," Staub said.

Timing is important to get a good crop. When wheat is planted, where its planted and variety all play a role. Rain plays a major part in the quality of the wheat and it worked well for many farmers.

"We caught moisture at the right time," Staub said. "The berry was filled before it got hot, dry and windy."

There is still a long way to go in the 2020 wheat harvest so it will take some time before the numbers are all in and the final results are known.

"From the northern to the southern end of the county, there's still quite a bit of wheat out there to be cut," Staub said.

While the recent rains are appreciated, it does stop the harvest and can cause test weights to go down. It shouldn't affect the protein count.