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Wheat harvest, prices looking good
It's a state that's unlikely to change as Kansas limps toward a late -- but likely decent -- wheat harvest.

The good news for Kansas farmers is that futures prices are likely to remain above $7 a bushel for hard red winter wheat, analysts say. And a post-harvest bounce of anywhere from 50 cents to $1.50 could come, depending on what other grains -- especially corn -- bring to the game.

For Kansas, that means revenue from the 2008 wheat harvest could more than double the $1 billion that the state realizes from a normal harvest of about 380 million bushels at a price that has traditionally been closer to $3 a bushel.

Not all of that revenue spells profit for farmers, however.

High costs for fuel and fertilizer means farmers have spent more this year to top-dress wheat fields with nitrogen and will spend more on diesel fuel to run combines and trucks at harvest time.

Arlan Suderman, an analyst and columnist with Farm Progress, said even though wheat prices have dropped in recent weeks from highs that soared above $12, it is likely that short supplies of wheat and strong demand will combine to keep wheat prices high, even through the 2009 harvest.

"The USDA estimate for total wheat harvest was the highest of any one I've seen and not likely to come about," he said. "That's going to impact prices at harvest.

"And then still the impact of the battle for crop acres for 2009 that will play a role."

Kansas farmers are likely to profit from the price run-up if harvest unfolds according to recent forecasts. Participants on the Wheat Quality Council tour estimated this year's Kansas harvest at 379.1 million bushels, which would be a marked increase over last year's production of 283 million bushels.

The USDA estimate predicts a harvest of 357.2 million bushels in Kansas, less than the wheat tour but still about a 26 percent increase over last year's weather-ravaged harvest.

The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said this week that 46 percent of the wheat crop has headed as harvest nears. That is far behind what is normal for this time of year as cool conditions slow maturity.

The agency rates wheat condition as 7 percent very poor and 15 percent poor. About 36 percent is in fair condition with 33 percent rated as good and 10 percent as excellent.

Ned Bergkamp, who farms in western Sedgwick County, said his wheat looks good so far.

"Certainly a lot better than last year," Bergkamp said. "I planted a lot of wheat this year, and I'm anxious for harvest to start."

Weather challenges are always in play at this time of year.

High winds, which have been a weather pattern this spring, are hard on wheat, especially as it matures. Hailstorms and drenching rains can also take a toll.

Disease pressure could also affect harvest, which is at least another month away.

Kansas State University Extension agronomist Jim Shroyer said that foliar diseases, leaf rust in particular, could be especially damaging to this year's harvest.

"The wheat is quite a bit behind previous years in maturity and that always increases the risk of foliar diseases arriving in time to impact the health of the plant before grain filling occurs," Shroyer said.

"We've seen quite a lot of rust in Oklahoma this year and it could just go from barely noticeable to really, really severe in a short time."
MGR Archive 25.5.2008
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