Colorado farmers will harvest more wheat acres this summer than they have the past five years, according to a crop report released Monday.
And many of those acres in northern Colorado will produce a high-yielding crop, say those who are keeping a close eye on the situation.
According to the new U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, Colorado is expected to harvest 2.4 million acres of wheat — the most since 2009.
With good soil moisture and good wheat prices this past fall, Colorado farmers planted more acres than normal, and the weather has been good since then to many of those growers.
While wheat harvest in Colorado is underway — as it normally is this time of year — only about 6 percent of the state’s crop had been cut as of Sunday, which is far behind the average of 22 percent by June 29 from 2009 to 2013.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to Glenda Mostek, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Wheat Growers Association.
Much of that delay has been due to rain and cool weather, which, while keeping farmers out of their fields, is giving the wheat more moisture and more time to develop, she said.
“It’s a very good situation for farmers north of I-70,” she said. “We’re not going to be surprised if farmers in the north part of the state see yields in the range of 50 (bushels per acre), 60 or even 70.”
Nearly all wheat grown in Colorado is winter wheat — planted in the fall, dormant in the winter and harvested in the summer.
Monday’s report didn’t predict yields for Colorado’s wheat crop this summer, but a June 11 report did, predicting that Colorado wheat overall would have yields of about 35 bushels per acre.
While Monday’s reports showed an increase in harvested acres for Colorado wheat, those reports also estimated that about 40 percent of the state’s crop this year is in rough shape.
The crop that’s struggling is in the southern part of the state, which has been the case for a few years in a row, Mostek explained.
Southeast Colorado farmers, more than others, were in need of a rebound year in 2014. Due to dry planting conditions in the fall of 2012 and poor weather throughout much of 2013 (particularly in southeast Colorado), about 660,000 acres — nearly 30 percent of Colorado’s winter wheat acres planted — were abandoned and not harvested.
Once again, a lot of wheat in the southern half of the state isn’t looking great, but Mostek said they’re not expecting nearly that kind of abandonment again this year.
“There are some farmers in the southern part of the state who have a bad enough crop ... to where insurance companies have told them it’s not worth it to harvest it,” she said. “But we don’t anticipate it to be as many acres as last year.”
Mostek added, “Some other guys (in southern Colorado) might only be getting 5 to 10 bushels per acre, but we’ve talked with others down there who are looking at wheat that might produce 40 to 45 bushels per acre.”
She said some southern Colorado farmers attributed such success to switching to no-till farming, which preserves soil moisture better than conventional methods.
“There’s still hope down there.”
The nation’s farmers planted the largest soybean crop on record this year by devoting millions of acres of land to the crop that had been used for growing corn, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.
Farmers planted 84.8 million acres of soybeans, which was nearly 11 percent more than last year’s 76.5 million acres. Among the states that planted record amounts of the crop were Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Corn was planted on 91.6 million acres, which was nearly 4 percent less than last year’s 95.4 million acres.
“The increase of soybeans has been dramatic the last couple of years here and I think the increased protein demand worldwide has a lot to do with that,” said Grant Kimberley, a corn and soybean farmer near Maxwell in central Iowa and director of market development for the Iowa Soybean Association.
About a third of the U.S. soybean crop is exported to China, where there’s a large demand for soybeans to feed hogs, poultry, and dairy cows.
The change in planting was also due to a drop in corn prices and rise in soybean prices.❖
— The Associated Press