By Amy Bickel The Hutchinson News firstname.lastname@example.org
HAVEN - It came with little pomp and circumstance, except for maybe a welcome sigh from elevator employees who had put in 16-hour days for the past two weeks.
Yet on this 100-degree afternoon, some of the last few truckloads of the Reno County wheat harvest came cross elevator scales with an uneventful finish.
A relief, that is, unless you're among the fortunate signaling the end of a banner year.
"When you're hauling it in, you are still making money," said Haven-area farmer Arlene Bontrager, who is helping her husband, Vernon, and their sons, Carl, Matthew and Brian, finish up harvest over the next two days on their acreage north of town.
After all, it has been a bumper harvest, especially in Reno County. While drought decimated western Kansas' wheat crop, the picture was different in this region of the state. Combines cut through thick stands of amber waves and some elevators reported binning the most bushels in several years.
Bontrager said the family should see yields of 60 to 70 bushels an acre, much like other area farmers.
"We've been pleased," she said. "With the drought the last couple years and then late freezes this year, we really thought we had a lot more damage."
At Haven's Mid-Kansas Co-op, location manager Jeff Jones said that harvest is 95 percent complete, adding it was one of the larger harvests in recent years. The elevator binned more than 675,000 bushels, close to 70 percent over the location's five-year average.
"We saw some 70- to 80-bushel wheat," he said. "We had some 40-bushel wheat, too, but yields should average well into the 60s. It was just a good year."
At Nickerson-based Farmers Co-op, General Manager Joe Schauf said he was relieved that harvest had wound down, except for a few mud holes. Company-wide, the cooperative took in more than 2 million bushels, up from 1.82 million binned in 2012.
"We can go back 20 years, and it was the best harvest in the past 20 years, if not the best ever," Schauf said. "We had a pretty good harvest."
Yields in his area averaged between 55 and 60 bushels an acre. One farmer reported a yield of 67 on one of his fields.
Meanwhile, Schauf added, the price per bushel has dropped 70 cents since harvest, to $6.64 when the markets closed Monday afternoon.
Test weights slipped as well with the rain, he said, but most loads averaged 60 pounds a bushel or better - or No. 1-grade wheat.
Other elevators saw bigger declines in quality.
Harvest rains caused test weights to drop from 60-63 pounds a bushel to 56-60 pounds a bushel at Farmers Co-op at Abbyville, said General Manager Curt Croisant.
He added that it was an average to above-average harvest, with many farmers reporting farm averages in the mid-50s.
More rain needed
After a good wheat harvest, elevator crews are now focusing on the upcoming fall crop.
With triple-digit temperatures setting in, Croisant was hoping the rain predicted for this week would materialize.
Jones said his Haven branch already had shipped some grain as his employees made room for the upcoming corn harvest. With a few more rains, it could be another good season there, as well.
"The dryland and irrigated corn look good," said Jones. "You can hardly tell the difference between them."
But without a rain in the next week or two, the crop condition could change drastically, said Nickerson's Schauf.
"We are living rain-to-rain on these dryland crops," he said. "It's hot today and even hotter tomorrow."