High temperatures could further hurt wheat harvest

Farmer Kyler Millershaski inspects some of his winter wheat

LAKIN, Kan. (KSNW) — While this heat is helping some, it’s the last thing that wheat farmers in central and southwest Kansas need right now.

The extreme temperatures are the last thing needed, because, the wheat in those areas isn’t done ripening, and this hot weather is going to cause the kernels to shrivel up.

That’s going to cut into harvest yields.

Farmer Kyler Millershaski is expecting to get 35 bushels an acre out of this year’s wheat crop, but he knows some won’t see it go that high.

“As far as yields go,” he said, “I’m thinking we’re going to see everything across the board, maybe as low as five bushels an acre.”

Kyler says wheat in southwest Kansas has been through a lot this year.

“We had a lot of disease. The snow that came through really put it down, so there’s going to be some fields that don’t do that great as we’d like.”

With the low commodity prices, small yields will hurt farmers’ incomes.

Now, with harvest about a week or so away, there’s a new threat: in the high nineties.

“Especially this past weekend, we were over 100 degrees,” said Millershaski. “We had 30 plus mile an hour winds. That really dries out the wheat really fast.”

He says that’s a recipe for disaster.

“It’s a lot like if you take a cake and put it in the oven and it says to bake it at 350 for 30 minutes and you think I’m going to put it at 700 for 10 minutes, and you just end up with a burnt cake.”

That will cause the grain to shrivel up, reducing bushels of wheat down to as low as 50 lbs from the market standard of 60.

“This wheat crop was at the stage where if we would have had one more week of cool weather,” said KSN’s ag expert John Jenkinson, “we would have finished out filling the small grain, the small berry, nice and full.”

Millershaski expects to do some test cutting this weekend, and he knows a lot can change for better or worse before then.

“The nice part and the stressful part, it’s out of my control,” he said. “I can’t control the weather, so you know you kind of just got to stay as positive as you can and roll with the punches sometimes.”

The USDA predicts that the winter wheat harvest in Kansas will be down 35 percent from 2016.

They expect farmers to bring in 304 million bushels versus 467 million from last year.

Part of that is because with grain prices so low, farmers didn’t plant as much wheat. Last year, 8.2 million acres of wheat were planted, but this year that number fell to less than 7 million acres of wheat.