Kansas Farmers Survey Crop Damage From Storms

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Thursday, may 31, 2012

Well before last night’s storm was over, Kansas farmers began worrying about what it would do to their crop condition. Between the large hail and strong winds, there was bound to come some damage. But as a whole, local farmers might have dodged a bullet.

Here's why farmers are always in a hurry to harvest their wheat when it's ready. They never know when the next storm is going to come in and damage or even worse destroy their crop.

Sedgwick County farmer Mic Rausch found some hail damage in his ripened wheat fields near Garden Plain. The hail knocked the kernels out of the head.

For Rausch, the high wind caused more of a problem than even the hail. The stalks were ripe and top-heavy with grain making them susceptible to wind. Broken stalks and head are now close to the ground rather than standing up where the combine can easily harvest them. Rausch says it means dropping the combine header on the ground to pick up even the fallen wheat.

"It's going to be a slow harvest now. Instead of traveling three or four miles an hour, you may be doing a half mile an hour," says Rausch.

Farm Bureau has had crop insurance adjusters in the area. Agent Bob Murphy says so far, they’ve only found light damage.

"I think we dodged a big one, yea. It could have been worse than what it is," says Murphy.

Sedgwick County Extension Agent Gary Cramer says local farmers dodged a bullet, saying hail and high wind could have done much more damage to vulnerable crops. What he and farmers say is good about the storm is the rain it brought.

Storms caused damage to wheat fields in northwest Kansas, according to Ellis County Extension Agent Stacy Campbell. Parched soils from Highway 83 east benefitted from rainfall totals ranging from one-quarter inch to 4-plus inches. For farmers west of that line however, the storm was just another missed opportunity in what has become a long drought.

Randy Ackerman, manager of the Meade Co-op Elevator and Supply in Meade, said the area received some light rain and hail, but that farmers resumed harvest Thursday afternoon. This harvest is poor, especially when considering how promising the crop looked six weeks ago.

Hillsboro farmer Paul Penner, who serves as 2nd Vice President of the National Association of Wheat Growers, says harvest was in full swing in his region until showers came Wednesday night. Penner was cutting wheat that yielded in the 50 bushel per acre range, with test weights around 62. Farmers in the area report even higher yields, and test weights vary from 57-60 pounds per bushel. Penner says the rain is welcome, as row crops were under duress from the dry weather.

Harvest was about two-third complete in the Anthony area on Wednesday before a thunderstorm dropped about an inch of much-needed rain, says Dan Cashier, manager of the Anthony Farmers Coop. Farmers are harvesting very good quality wheat, averaging 62 pounds per bushel and 11 protein. The elevator has taken in about 2.5 million bushels of wheat so far, with yields averaging well above 40 bushels per acre. Cashier reports some of the crop has suffered from light hail damage.

Overall, while the storm brought damaging hail and high wind hurting some crops, it also brought a lot of beneficial rain which will help crops in the long run.

The Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas Association of Wheat Growers contributed to harvest reports.

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