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Don Schoderbek
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Winter wheat harvest accelerated by hot, dry weather

Hot, dry and windy weather has recently prevailed across much of the Great Plains. According to last week's U.S. Department of Agriculture — National Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Progress and Condition report, this has resulted in a decrease in pasture and dryland crop conditions across the region.

However, these conditions have helped the winter wheat harvest, which has been moving north across the High Plains. Across the region, the last two weeks have averaged five to six days per week suitable for field work. Harvest crews have taken advantage of the dry conditions to get out into the fields. Currently, the harvest is mostly complete in Kansas, and well underway in Colorado and Nebraska. Wyoming's crop is still maturing.

Reports have described a variable harvest. In comments to the Kansas Wheat Commission, Ray Mangani, manager of Frontier Ag Inc. in Bird City, Kan., said that kernel characteristics were "very good" this year. Test weights have averaged 61 pounds per bushel, but protein content has been widely varied. "Protein is all over the place," Magnani said. "We've seen some test at 15 (percent), but then we've seen some test way down into the 9s. Those numbers depended mostly on variety selection and the fertilizer programs the farmers chose for their crops." According to Mangani, the Cheyenne County firm has taken in 700,000 to 1 million bushels of winter wheat, which is slightly below average.

Kansas farmer and National Association of Wheat Growers President David Schemm of Sharon Springs, Kan., said test weights in his area so far had been lower than average, but protein levels were "much higher than last year." Schemm continued, "It's been an interesting year. We started off excited about it, and even after the snow we thought we had a crop. Now I'm just ready to wrap it up, get it done and start to look forward to next year."

WYOMING

Wyoming's winter wheat crop is currently maturing, with 18 percent of the crop at the mature stage, 57 percent at the coloring stage and 93 percent at the heading stage. This crop is generally ahead of 2016, when only 4 percent of the state's wheat crop was mature during the same period. However, it is behind the five-year average, when 29 percent of the wheat crop was mature during this week's period. In general, harvesting has not yet begun in Wyoming, due to its more northerly latitude.

COLORADO

Most of Colorado's winter wheat crop — 92 percent — has matured. This is a large rise, up from 65 percent the previous week. However, the condition of the crop is below average. Last week, only 43 percent of the winter wheat crop was in good-to-excellent condition, which is lower than the same week in 2016, when 66 percent of the crop was in good-to-excellent condition.

Harvest has also begun in earnest. As of last week, 47 percent of the state's winter wheat crop had been harvested, up from 13 percent the previous week. This is also ahead of 2016, when 30 percent of the crop had been harvested during the same period.

NEBRASKA

Across the Cornhusker State, the winter wheat harvest is also well underway. Eighty-five percent of the crop has matured, up from 60 percent the previous week. The crop is also in moderate condition, with 49 percent in good-to-excellent condition, down from 50 percent the previous week.

Helped by the warm, dry weather, the harvest is also well ahead of schedule. Last week's data showed that 52 percent of the state's winter wheat had been harvested, which is ahead of the same week in 2016, when 35 percent had been harvested.

KANSAS

In Kansas, as the bulk of the harvest has been completed, winter wheat crop condition was not reported for this period. However, according to the July 5 report (last reported data), 47 percent of the crop was in good-to-excellent condition.

The wheat harvest in the Sunflower State is mostly complete. As of July 9, 93 percent of the crop had been harvested. This is ahead of 73 percent completion the previous week, and near the five-year average of 89 percent.

Across the state, reported yields and test weights have been a mixed bag, ranging from white stripe mosaic virus (WSMV)-abandoned fields, to fields yielding upwards of 80 bushels per acre. Reported test weights in Kansas range from the low 50s to 62 pounds per bushel, with test weights generally increasing toward the north across the state.

— Schoderbek, Sterling, Colo., covers ranching, resource and agricultural issues across the grasslands of the High Plains. He is also a private range consultant at Range Horizons LLC, a firm that specializes in precision ranching, mapping and UAS operations. Reach him at don@rangehorizons.com, or on his cell at (970) 520-9294.