WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – This summer’s wheat harvest is finally coming to a close in Kansas after weeks of delays, and it’s the smallest crop for the state since 1966.
Farmers were up against weather-related challenges this year. Wheat needs a lot of moisture when it’s planted in the fall and actively growing in the spring. However, in the summer, it needs to be dry for harvesting.
This year, the weather did the opposite of what was needed.
The fall and spring were dry, which made some crops so stunted farmers gave up on them entirely. About 15% of crops were abandoned, compared to the 5% abandoned in a typical year, according to the Kansas Wheat Commission.
“Many acres of wheat in Kansas were just abandoned this year before we even got to May 1,” Aaron Harries, Kansas Wheat Commission Vice President of Research and Operations, said.
As late May rolled around, the weather started to get wet. Heavy rains came during harvest time when farmers needed fields to be dry.
“Every time it rains on a field of ripe wheat, it lowers the quality of that wheat,” Harries said.
Harvest normally finishes up around the Fourth of July. This year, crops were being picked into early August.
Late rains fed into another problem, too.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of population out there, not a whole lot of straw. So the weeds came, I would say the biggest issue was the weeds,” Martin Kerschen, a farmer based outside of Wichita, said.
“When it started raining in June, it became a race to try to get your wheat harvested before the green weeds would come up and take over your field,” Harries said.
The hope for farmers is that things turn around next year, but with Mother Nature, there are no guarantees.
“The biggest concern is that it doesn’t happen again next year,” Kerschen said.