Wheat harvest starts late, but good quality.

KIMBALL — The southern Panhandle winter wheat harvest, usually completed by now, is just getting underway as early bushels begin rolling in to elevators in the area.

Jim Carlson, grain originator with Frenchman Valley Cooperative in Kimball, said combines are in the area but are just getting started with this year’s harvest. The first loads coming in have been from east and south of Kimball.

“Normally, we should be finished by now, but we’re two weeks behind,” he said. “A cool and wet spring is what set us back.”

Carlson said they’re expecting good yields for the season, although numbers could range widely depending on where producers are located and whether they’re irrigating.

Dryland yields could run anywhere from 45 bushels to 89 bushels an acre, depending on a number of variables such as which varieties of wheat were planted. For irrigated land, yields could be up to 100 bushels.

“The wheat quality looks very good right now,” Carlson said. “Protein should be average, whatever average is. It could range anywhere from 8.5 to 12%.”

He said there will be about two weeks of regular dryland wheat harvest before combiners move on to harvest the irrigated land, so the harvest should wrap up in about a month.

Byron and Amber Wilke farm dryland wheat northeast of Kimball and they’ve just started cutting.

“The wheat is doing a lot better than we expected, although it’s a lot later than we’re used to,” Amber said. “For us, the harvest season will be spread out. It won’t be one of those years when we pull in and cut until we’re finished.”

She added they started cutting a little early, but moisture content is running in the 12.5% range. The field they’ve cut so far has produced about 45-50 bushels an acre, which she said is great for their location.

“We’ve never started harvesting this late, although we’ve finished at this time of year before,” Amber said. “It’s been an interesting year to say the least.”

Mike Rowan, president of Crossroads Cooperative in Sidney, said the wheat harvest has just started in that area as well.

“We have some combines in the area, but we’re expecting more to come in soon. We’re probably not 10% finished yet.”

The wet weather that extended into May and June made for a late start, and when the harvest wraps up will also depend on the weather. But the outlook is positive.

“We have 10 elevators in Scotts Bluff, Morrill and Cheyenne Counties and they all dumped wheat yesterday,” Rowan said. “We’re looking for higher than average yields and good quality wheat with low protein.”

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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