Wheat heads out, short and stressed

Staff writer

On Friday, Keith Jost of Hillsboro was expecting his wheat to head out in the next week or two. Hot weather on Sunday sent the plants into high gear as heads rapidly emerged from their stalks.

After a wheat quality tour across the state April 28 to Thursday by farmers, millers, and agriculture experts, the Kansas wheat crop is expected to yield 18 percent lower than in 2013.

The plants are short, varying from six to 14 inches. The tour report stated that wheat plants would be “stressed into maturity,” meaning they would send out heads even though the plants are short. That is what is happening.

Roger Bartel, who lives southwest of Hillsboro, has 100 acres in wheat.

“It needs rain but it doesn’t look too bad,” he said. “We got enough rain last fall to produce a good stand.”

He said he was surprised to see that the wheat had grown a little lately despite the lack of moisture. He said the thicker, taller wheat had more rain after it was planted and was able to develop a good root system.

His farm received .20 of rain April 27. Some reports indicate rainfall so far this year to be one of the lowest in the area since 1936.

Bartel said his best wheat is about 10 inches tall, and when it heads out, it will be 15 inches tall.

He said he heard that some wheat fields have been zeroed out, but if a field is judged to yield even eight or nine bushels per acre, it might pay to harvest it. Wheat futures are up 26 percent so far this year. The cash price Monday morning at Cooperative Grain and Supply was $7.89.

Danny Rudolph of Lincolnville planted more than 600 acres of wheat last fall.

“It’s not very tall and thinner than it should be, but I guess we’ll find out how it will do in a month,” he said.

He isn’t too worried about the outcome because he has crop insurance, which will more than cover any yield loss he may have.

Dwight Kruse of Marion said his wheat on bottomland looks good but other wheat is more stressed.

“I don’t have an opinion on the harvest,” he said. “I’ve never seen it like this before.”

Jost farms around Hillsboro and in the Durham area. He has 1,000 acres of wheat. He said the wheat around Hillsboro looks better and more uniform than that around Durham.

“This is a critical time of the year,” he said. “The wheat is not flowering yet, so there is no danger from frost.”

He said he has noticed yellowing spots in some of his fields. Wheat plants are 12 inches tall when they could be 28 to 30 inches tall.

The wheat is stressed because of lack of moisture, and the hot weather will compound that.

“With ideal rainfall, we might be surprised at the yield,” Jost said. “In the next few weeks, the crop will get better or deteriorate.”

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