Wheat farmers get good yields

Newly seeded wheat paints the countryside around Waterville green. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)


By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Newly seeded wheat comes up in a field on the east end of Waterville. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

Farmers have wrapped up their harvest on the Waterville Plateau and are looking at good yields and decent prices.

Paul Katovich, general manager of HighLine Grain Growers, said that this year’s above average yield is unique in that the harvest was uniformly above average, with very little acreage performing below average. Several locations, including Alstown south of Waterville and the area north of Farmer, experienced record-breaking yields.

“Some of those cut the best yields they have ever cut,” Katovich added.

Katovich attributed the good harvest to cool weather in May and spring rains. The areas that got the most spring rain are probably the ones with the record-breaking yields, he said.

Unfortunately the crop is somewhat affected by low falling numbers, indicating a certain amount of sprout damage. Wheat with lower falling numbers is priced lower than wheat with higher falling numbers.

The falling number issue is not as serious as it was in 2016, according to Katovich.

Overall, wheat prices have increased over the past three years. Katovich is hopeful that the market may continue to go up, though the wheat market is very dynamic and hard to predict.

Katovich said that most farmers seem to be finding good moisture in the soil for seeding next year’s crop.

Waterville farmer Alan Loebsack finished harvesting on Aug. 13, giving a one-week break before he needed to begin seeding next year’s winter wheat crop. He reported that harvest came on suddenly this year, and the fields were ready about 10 days before most people expected, leading to the earlier than normal finishing time. On Sept. 5, he said that he expected to finish seeding by the end of the week.

He added that his yields had been good, which surprised him because seeding conditions last fall were not good for him. He has gone to no-till farming, which over the long term will hold moisture well in the soil as organic matter accumulates, but which actually dried out quicker than with conventional farming methods for him last year. Loebsack had to set his seeding drills as deep as they would go, and a lot of the crop was slow in coming up. A certain percentage needed to be reseeded in all of his fields.

Loebsack credits rain in the fall after the crop came up, sufficient moisture in the winter, and spring rains for helping the crop along. Also, temperatures did not get really hot until late July, so the moisture was conserved.

He said that as he went out to view his fields before harvest, he kept being pleasantly surprised by what he saw.

“The crop just kept looking better and better,” said Loebsack. “I’m really thankful and kind of astonished at how good it did come out.”

Loebsack said that all but two of his fields yielded above average and those two were average. One of his fields brought in yields above 70 bushels an acre, which is rare.

Low falling numbers were a problem in some of the fields, he said.

The same conditions that made for a good crop this year have provided good seeding conditions for next year’s crop, so the outlook is good.