Wheat has been a roller coaster ride

The growing season and the following harvest certainly have been a roller-coaster ride for the local winter wheat crop.
Planted last fall in dry conditions, followed by a mostly dry fall, winter and early spring, prospects did not look promising for the 2021 harvest.

However, then came a wet snow in the middle of April that blanketed the region in moisture. That was followed by a May in which most areas received six to 10 inches of precipitation.
Suddenly, there was a potential for a bumper crop.
However, then came some extremely hot days in June, and the return of dry conditions.
Chances for a bumper crop wilted away as wheat heads did not fill properly under the oppressive heat.
The result is a harvest that is shaping up to fall somewhere between “disaster” and “bumper.”
“It isn’t a bumper crop, but it’s a solid crop,” local agronomist Merlin VanDeraa said. “…Most people at least are harvesting something.”
Harvest began in earnest, locally, on the Fourth of July weekend, and has continued unabated since. It likely will be mostly wrapped up after this weekend as long as the weather cooperates.
Wade Betschart of West Plains said it seems yields improve the farther one goes north of Yuma. Test weights are a bit low, averaging around 58 pounds per bushel, with 11 percent moisture and 10 percent protein.
“It’s not as bad as it could have been” Betschart said. “All the moisture in May helped. It’s leaps and bounds better than last year.”
Rob Baar with Stratton Equity Co-op in Kirk said that location is averaging around 58 pounds per bushel. Some, though, are as low as 50 pounds. Baar said his facility cannot accept anything below 53 pounds because it cannot market it, adding there are other locations that can take that wheat.
“I was hoping it would get better as the harvest went on,” he said, “but every day we are getting two to three loads that are too low.”
He noted, though, that despite the low test weights yields are still in the 40 to 50 bushel range. Some fields have done worse, while there are some dryland locations that yielded much higher.
While most of the local crop is dryland, there are some irrigated winter wheat fields. Baar noted the irrigated has not fared much better this year. VanDeraa concurred, explaining that some irrigated fields “went flat” at which point the sprinklers have to be turned off.
VanDeraa said overall yields are a bit above average, if one considers Yuma County’s average to be 40 to 45 bushel per acre, and that some fields are yielding up to 65 to 70 per acre.
The market definitely has been cooperating as the wheat price is well above $5.