Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Wheat harvest productive

June 25, 2003

What looks to be a bumper Douglas County wheat harvest stalled out with Monday's inch-plus rain, but there aren't many complaints because that's just what farmers needed for the money crops -- corn and soybeans.

Charles Jehle, who farms 400 acres near Worden, brought in the first load of wheat to the Baldwin Feed Co. elevator last Tuesday. That brought a flurry of wheat flowing into the grain bins that was averaging around 70 bushels an acre, well above the 42-bushel average for the last six years.

Rains around Vinland Thursday and Sunday, and a county-wide downpour Monday morning put the brakes on activity at the elevator.

"The rain kind of put a halt to it right now," Baldwin Feed's Verlyn Gilges said Tuesday morning of the wheat harvest. "The rains always tend to lower the test weights, so we'll have to see what happens. But, the wheat is above average this year for sure."

Of course, it's not all 70-bushel wheat. Douglas County Agent Bill Wood said he's receiving reports of anywhere from 50 to 70 bushels, but that's still much better than that 40-bushel average the county has had recently.

"This is looking like a good year," said Wood. "It's clean, too, without very many weeds. There are lots of years where there's more green in the bin than wheat."

Oddly enough, the reason for fewer weeds and better wheat is because of the drought-like conditions the county experienced in the fall through winter and into early spring.

"It's hard to believe, but wheat likes it dry," said Wood. "In normal years we get too much humidity and wet conditions in the spring which brings in diseases to the wheat. Everything worked well for it this year. I think the conditions last winter let it get real thick. There are more tillers, which makes for a good wheat field."

That's all combined for what looks to be a bumper wheat crop.

"It does, which is nice," he said. "With a price of $3 a bushel times 60 (bushels an acre) equals $180, which is break-even. You need to be able to break even and we haven't done that in the past. That's why there's not much wheat grown around here. You can't afford to grow it, even if it is a good crop rotation."

There are plenty of row crops grown, however, with the county averaging 45,000 acres of soybeans and 25,000 acres of corn, compared to the 5,000 to 8,000 acres of wheat. That's why there aren't too many complaints about the much-needed rain for the money crops.

"I don't think too many farmers are complaining," said Wood. "I think for the most part our farmers will say they'll take the rain. Soybeans and corn are our big crops in the county, not wheat."

Gilges agreed with that assessment.

"It's great for the fall crops," he said of the rain. "It does more good for the fall crops than it does harm to the wheat."

Farmers are also well into the hay harvest, too, and the rain doesn't help there -- especially if the cut hay is on the ground. Still, Wood doesn't think that's of too much concern.

"With the hay, yes, we'd like to get that up before it rains," he said. "But, again, I think that we'll take the rains. It's more important than the hay, unless you're just raising cattle."

Gilges thought the wheat harvest might be able to kick back up today, but it will depend on what happens with the weather.

"They might be able to get back in the field today, but they're talking about rain again today, too," he said.

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