Patrick Richardson

Managing Editor

The wheat harvest in Cherokee County is about half over according to Machelle Shouse, Farmer’s Coop general manager, and it’s looking pretty good this year.

“Overall the wheat crop is better than expected,” Shouse said. “I’ve heard some 50 to 60 bushel (per acre) yields.

“If we don’t get a rain we should be done this time next week.”

Shouse said the soybeans and corn could use a good rain and most producers would be happy to pull out of the fields for a day or so to get some moisture on the wheat.

She also said there was surprisingly little disease on the wheat given the rain earlier this year.

“It was too wet early and then it turned off dry,” she said.

Moisture content and test weights have also been better than average for Southeast Kansas.

Shouse said the area is known for a lower protein content than much of the rest of the state, but test weights have been good — around 65 pounds per bushel, with moisture contents between 12.5 to 12.8 percent.

“(The crop is) better than average this year,” Shouse said.

This season’ winter wheat crop in Kansas is expected to be down by 27 percent from last year, according to updated harvest statistics released Thursday that show the state is on track to bring in the lowest wheat production in 15 years.

The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service expects the size of this year’s wheat crop to be 261.8 million bushels from 7.7 million acres. Kansas — the nation’s largest wheat producer — is harvesting this season’s crop from 300,000 fewer acres than a year ago in part because of drought and scorching temperatures.

Wheat harvest began late last week in south-central Kansas. The new forecast, which is unchanged from last month, is based on crop conditions as of June 1.

From a historical context, this harvest is forecast to bring in the lowest wheat production in Kansas since 1996. It is the smallest harvested acreage since 1957, and the anticipated average yield per acre is the worst since 2007, the agency said.

However, the short supply has spiked prices during harvest. Last year at this time, wheat was fetching about $3 a bushel. This year the average cash price nationwide is $7.70 a bushel for wheat, said Kansas State University economist Dan O’Brien.

Elevators in Kansas have been reporting cash prices at more than $8 a bushel during the harvest.

KASS also said in its monthly crop production report that it expects yields in the state to average 34 bushels per acre, down 11 bushels an acre from a year ago.

Early reports coming out of the first fields being cut in Kansas show hard red winter wheat yields are as low as expected in areas plagued by drought and high temperatures.

“They have shown pretty much the yields in area we thought we’d see low yields, but I think in some of those areas they are just happy they are not getting catastrophic yields,” O’Brien said. “For those local farmers and those local areas, I guess we can say we are thankful. It helps their income — a moderate to decent yield with these high prices.”

The higher prices are driven by a demand from millers and other users anxious to get a hold of supplies for their use or for export, O’Brien said. For example, at the Farmers Co-op Grain Association elevator in Wellington, the cash price for wheat on Tuesday was $8.39 a bushel,

Hard red winter wheat was trading at $7.54 per bushel for the July 2011 contract in Columbus.

(Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.)