Wheat harvest offers up mixed bag


 With harvest beginning on Monday, Kurt Kocher has been seeing a little bit of everything in this year's wheat crop.
"It's a mixed bag this year," Kocher said. 
 With an early freeze where temperatures dropped rapidly, the wheat never had a chance to harden.  Some wheat was damaged by dryness, other damaged by the rain, developing stripe rust or is being overtaken by weeds, sometimes all in the same field.
 "It'll be a challenge if we get too much more rain," Kocher said, which would not only delay harvest, but would require farmers to spend more money to spray a fairly mediocre crop.  Some of the chemicals, Kocher noted, aren't even working on his other crops. 
 Kocher has been farming his whole life.  A fourth-generation Cloud County farmer, Kocher's great-grandparents got off the train from Pennsylvania in Aurora in 1883 because the tracks just didn't go any farther.
 In his 1400 acres of wheat, divided by highway 81, measurements have varied. The test weight has been 56-57, 60-60.7, but Kocher is expecting some of that to shake out.  Averaging 50 bushels in his cutting so far, Kocher predicts Cloud County to report a 40 bushel average.
 "There's been some good wheat and some poor wheat," he said, but comparing it to last year's crop it's pretty similar.
 With just one combine, one full-time hired man and one part-time helper, Kocher is expecting harvest to take 12-14 days, averaging 150-160 acres in a full day's cutting, but moving from field to field takes time and the weather and machinery are always time factors.
 "We're spending a lot of time just waiting for stuff to dry out," Kocher said. He has been spending his mornings planting and spraying fall crops, that could be pretty decent, even if they are behind, if the wet weather will just let up and they can avoid an early frost. 
 But the area is better off than other parts of Kansas, Kocher noted, where fields are still flooded and they can't do anything.  At least Cloud County is harvesting a pretty average crop.
 Mark Paul from Cloud County Co-op said after just a week, the Co-op has taken in 750,000 bushels.  Test weights have been averaging at 60.4, moisture levels at 12.6, and protein at 12.3, all very similar to last year. 
 While harvest started at a normal time, according to both Paul and Kocher, the weather may cause harvest to drag on past July 4. 
 "We're probably looking at the 9th or 10th," Paul said.


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