After a few years of drought and tough conditions, this year Mother Nature finally cooperated and gave Colorado wheat growers one of the best harvest they have had in years. Wheat harvest is just finishing up, with nearly 100 percent of the crop harvested.
“It is a day and night difference from last year,” said Joe Westhoff, Field Representative, Colorado Wheat. “The guys in Southwest Colorado are going to raise some wheat this year, unlike last year. They raised a better wheat crop than last year, even though it’s going to be droughty. The southeast will at least have something to sell. They still have a crop. Northeast Colorado last year had a drought. This year I’m hearing record yields.”
Harvest took a little longer this year than in the past.
“Harvest has been drawn out this year because of the monsoon,” Westhoff said. “There are maybe one or two producers that aren’t done. I would say 98 percent are done. The yield and test weights have been really good, as well as the protein.”
The yields have also been higher than expected as well.
“Guys are raising 60 bushel wheat on dryland and higher. Irrigated is up in the 100s. For those who didn’t get hailed we will have a bumper crop in northeast Colorado,” Westhoff said.
Last year, Colorado had almost a total wipeout, with around 700,000 abandoned acres, which equaled about 30 percent.
“Last thing I heard, ag statistics are expecting a 15 percent abandonment. I think that might be a little high,” Westhoff said.
The conditions for the wheat crop were near perfect this year, which has led to the higher yields.
“We had a wet fall, even though it was planted late. Everyone got it up in the fall and in good shape. And then we had a more mild winter, and it was not severely cold. This spring, it got wet in late April/May and end of June. It was cool, and we didn’t have extreme temperatures,” he explained. “In years before, we went to subzero weather in April to 100 degrees in May and no rain. This year we might have one hot day. Wheat likes cool, damp weather so it’s been great this year.”
The wheat crop this year has been good not only in Colorado, but worldwide.
“The rest of the world is cutting a pretty good crop too. It is estimated that this will be the second largest wheat crop worldwide,” Westhoff said. “That means that the prices are going down. They have a lot to sell, but the price at the market isn’t what it was a few years ago.”
In general, however, farmers are in better shape this year than they were last year.
“I’d say that anytime you can raise a crop you are in better shape. The production this year, even though the price has dropped, is double their average and in some cases more than double from last year,” Westhoff said.
Different areas of the state are seeing different yields.
Colorado Wheat reported the following estimates as of July 28.
“The Flagler Equity Coop estimated that harvest was 95 percent complete on Monday with moisture ranging from 8 to 10 percent, test weight averaging 58 to 59 pounds, protein averaging 12.8 to 12.9 percent and yields ranging from a low of 30 bushels per acre on hail-damaged wheat to a high of 70 bushels per acre with an average of about 35 bushels per acre.
“The Peetz Coop estimated that harvest was 90-95 percent complete on Monday with moisture in the 8 to 12 percent range, test weight ranging from 60 to 64 pounds, 30 percent of the crop with protein over 12 percent and yields ranging from 40 to 70 bushels per acre. PlainsGold Snowmass was yielding over 60 bushels per acre.”
Some areas are seeing very high yields.
“The Roggen Farmers’ Elevator estimated that the harvest was over 90 percent complete on Monday with moisture averaging 10 percent, test weight averaging over 60 pounds, protein was ordinary at 11 percent and yields mostly in the 60 to 70 bushel per acre range and hail damaged yields in the 30 to 35 bushel per acre range. The Roggen Coop reported receiving 120 percent of an average wheat crop. An area wheat farmer reported a dryland yield of 102 bushels per acre for PlainsGold Snowmass,” according to Colorado Wheat. “Cargill-Byers estimated that harvest was 90-95 percent complete with moisture in the 8 to 10 percent range, test weight averaging 59 to 60 pounds, protein falling to 9 to 10 percent from 10.5 to 11 percent and yields ranging from a low of 12 bushels per acre on hail-damaged wheat to a high of 85 bushels per acre.”
The USDA has projected a great harvest for Colorado wheat.
“According to the July 11 Crop Production Estimate, based on July 1 conditions, winter wheat production in Colorado is forecast at 86.4 million bushels, down 3 percent from the June 1 forecast but 95 percent above the 44.3 million bushels produced last year,” the Colorado Wheat report said. “Estimated acreage for harvest, at 2.40 million acres, is down 150,000 acres from June 1, but 760,000 acres more than the 1.64 million acres harvested in 2013. As of July 1, the average yield is forecast at 36.0 bushels per acre, 1.0 bushel above the June 1 forecast, and 9.0 bushels above last year’s final yield. Colorado Wheat predicts USDA will raise the yield forecast from 36.0 to 42.0-45.0 bushels per acre on its next report on August 12.”
Winter wheat production around the country is actually down from last year.
“U.S. winter wheat production is forecast at 1.37 billion bushels, down 1 percent from the June 1 forecast and down 11 percent from 2013. Based on July 1 conditions, the United States yield is forecast at 42.2 bushels per acre, down 0.2 bushel from last month and down 5.2 bushels from last year. The area expected to be harvested for grain or seed totals 32.4 million acres, unchanged from the Acreage report released on June 30, 2014 but up slightly from last year,” according to Colorado Wheat. “Hard Red Winter production, at 703 million bushels, is down 2 percent from last month. Soft Red Winter, at 458 million bushels, is up 1 percent from the June forecast. White Winter, at 206 million bushels, is up slightly from last month. Of the White Winter production, 10.6 million bushels are Hard White and 196 million bushels are Soft White.” ❖