|By Dan Voorhis, The Wichita Eagle|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Since then, the sun has beamed down, winds have blown hard, temperatures have been in the 90 a few times -- and not enough rain has fallen, particularly in western
In just the last month, the quality of the crop has suffered. The
"Things have gone downhill since
This year's lousy harvest is far from rare. Although last year the state produced nearly 320 million bushels of wheat, harvests in 2007 and 2011 were nearly as bad as what is projected this year.
This year is the third year of drought in
The evidence of drought can be seen: Fields sport sparse stands of puny plants only 10 to 20 inches tall. And in those fewer wheat plants, there are fewer kernals of wheat.
While recent rains were welcome, they came too late to save this year's harvest. The yields were largely set by the time it rained, although the moisture could help bolster yields in northern
Friesen said that the fear is that the drought-stricken wheat plants won't fill out the wheat kernels to their usual weight. The test weight for wheat is typically around 60 pounds per bushel. If it's below 55 pounds per bushel, it becomes harder to sell.
"Conditions are not looking great out here," he said. "We're desperately hoping we get some rain. We really need the moisture to help fill out this crop."
As always in farming, how well or how poorly a field is doing can vary a lot.
Rains were plentiful for about a month or so in late July and August last year. Tjaden planted wheat in the fall after he harvested his corn and soybeans.
Because his corn was planted earlier and was fully matured by late summer, it didn't absorb all the moisture from rains that fell. Soybeans, on the other hand, were planted later and kept drinking until close to harvest in October. That meant that wheat planted in the fall in the former corn field had more moisture for growth than did wheat planted in the former soybean field.
"I've had 4 or 5 inches of moisture since the first week of August, including any snow," he said.
He also noted that one of his wheat varieties, Duster, clearly did better than another he used, Everest.
In 2013, his farm produced 51 bushels of wheat per acre, he said. This year, he's hoping to get 15 to 20 bushels per acre.
He said he has had his crop insurance adjuster out to look at one of his fields a few weeks ago. He will be paid the difference between his actual production and 75 percent of the field's average production. He'll get some cash from the insurance to help cover expenses, he said.
But he warned against trying to calculate an hourly wage -- it would just be too depressing.
"We're hoping to be surprised," he said.
The shortfall of about 2 million bushels of wheat from the area served by his co-op will translate into real economic impact, he said. He estimated that with wheat at
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