Wheat yields above average so far in northeastern Colorado | TheFencePost.com

Wheat yields above average so far in northeastern Colorado

Eric Brown
Greeley, Colo.

JIM RYDBOM / jrydbom@greeleytribune.comWeld County wheat farmers are surprised by the above-average yields of dryland wheat being harvested this year.

A crop that was on pace for potential disaster not long ago left local wheat farmers in a pleasant state of awe as harvest got underway this past week.

“If you would have told me a couple months ago this is the kind of crop we’d have, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Vern Cooksey said Friday referring to the wheat he’d been cutting since the beginning of the week.

A lack of moisture last fall that lasted into the spring had area farmers anticipating a poor harvest until May rains ushered in a sense of hope. Local wheat producers were relieved in recent weeks as the crop was looking to produce average yields come harvest time, but are now “amazed” that initial cutting this past week showed bushels per acre to be above normal.

“We’re getting yields in the 40 to 55 range … and that seems to be about what everyone else around here is getting,” added Cooksey, whose family farms about 2,800 acres of wheat in the Roggen area. “It’s very surprising.”

The 10-year average for yields in Colorado dryland wheat is in the 30 to 35 range, and many farmers across northeast Colorado are reporting at least that.

“We’re seeing pretty strong yields all across the region,” said Glenda Mostek with the Colorado Wheat Growers Association, who checks in with elevators all over the state during harvest to get updates on yields. “Everything north of I-70, as far as I can tell, is doing really well. A lot of fields are producing yields in the 40 range and on up into the 60s.”

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“The farmers just need the rain to stay away a while longer so they can finish without much problem.”

She said southern Colorado, where drought has persisted, is a different story.

“At this point, anyone in that area who’s getting 20 bushels per acre is pretty happy,” Mostek said. “Once you start getting down into the 10- to 15-yield range, it starts to become a toss-up whether you’re going to be making any money.

“The drought down there has just made things awfully tough.”

While moisture has been scarce in the south, farmers in some areas to the north need the rains to yield. Gayland Bode at the Nunn Elevator said as of Friday afternoon, continued precipitation had kept most farmers in that area from cutting.

Bode said only one farmer so far had brought dryland wheat to his elevator, while noting that crop’s yields were ranging from the solid 40s down into the 20s.

“It seems like we’ve just gotten a little more rain here than the rest of the area, and it’s keeping our farmers from making any progress … and affecting the quality of the wheat a little,” Bode said.

Wheat harvest had gotten off to a late start by a couple weeks all over the region because of the recent rains, and the continued moisture had some farmers worried about problems in the wheat – mold, spouting heads, protein and carbohydrate loss – if cutting couldn’t take place soon.

But where the rains have relented, everything seems to be fine.

“It shows you why we plant the crop here,” said Curt Wirth, who farms in the New Raymer area and reported average yields in the mid 40s from what he had cut this week. “It looked to be a pretty tough year for wheat, but it recovered very well, better than any of us expected. It’s an amazing crop.”

Irrigated wheat, which makes up a small percentage of wheat planted in the area, was recording yields in the 70-to-110 range as of Friday, according to Bode at the Nunn Elevator and Dave Rupple, a farmer in the Keenesburg area.