It’s not been a good year for wheat farmers. In fact, it hasn’t been a good three years for wheat farmers.

It’s not been a good year for wheat farmers. In fact, it hasn’t been a good three years for wheat farmers.
“This is the third straight year of sub-par yields and sub-par averages,” said Ned Johnson, merchandiser for Producers Cooperative Association in Girard. “We had a late freeze in 2007, then we had a prolonged wet spring in 2008. The acreage is down, too. This is the second lowest wheat acreage we’ve had in a while.”
The acreage is down from roughly 32,500 acres of wheat planted to roughly 19,500. That’s not the only problem, either.
Dean Stites, county agent for the Kansas State Extension Service in Girard, said that wheat quality is also taking a hit because of a variety of reasons.
Among those reasons include a wet spring that drenched the plants.
“Lots of rain makes for a lousy wheat crop,” Stites said. “It’s a fact of life. Wheat can stand a lot of weather conditions, but just about the only thing wheat can’t withstand is wet weather. This spring, there were some crops with standing water, and so there were some big areas that just died.”
Even the wet weather can’t describe all of the problems with this set of crops.
Another problem is the rise of fungi in the wheat crops of the area. Stites said  the wet weather and heat have been a breeding ground for the various types of fungi.
“There are probably a half dozen funguses out there,” Stites said. “We’ve had most of them this year. There’s only one we didn’t have, and that was leaf rust. That didn’t show up because it was dry in Texas and Oklahoma. The spores blow north from there, but since it was dry there, it never developed.”
One of the biggest problems in the area has been head scab and a related issue, vomitoxin. Grain elevators are required to take a sample of every load of wheat to check for vomitoxin and head scab levels.
Johnson said the tests are coming in between 1.5 and 5 ppm (parts per million). He said anything more than 2.5 ppm prompts a discount price.
All those problems mean poor wheat.
“Nobody’s been bragging about their yields,” said grain manager Buckie Weimer.
All that told, Weimer said the bushel yields have been better than expected. A good crop of winter wheat comes in between 58 and 60 pounds. Yields have been coming in between 53 and 61 pounds. The average has been a little more than 57 pounds, which is higher than folks had expected given the wet weather and fungi.
But still, that’s less than a good crop. And that leaves local operators wondering when the crops will turn around.
“We’re overdue for a good crop,” Johnson said. “The first five to six years I was here, quality was not an issue. The last three years, it has been. It’s an aberration.”

Andrew Nash can be reached at or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.