Farmers upbeat about wheat

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Pictured, Jeremy Neff, accompanied by his wife Jenny and daughter Riley, harvests wheat in a combine in a field off Route 3 south of Waterloo on June 30.

Monroe County farmers are pleasantly surprised by the results of this year’s wheat harvest considering the circumstances.

The wheat being harvested in recent days has been hampered by rain essentially since its planting last fall, Gateway FS Grain Manager Adam Parker said.  

“Considering everything, the harvest results are pretty much a blessing,” he said.

The wheat seen across Monroe County this summer is a variety known as soft red winter wheat and is planted after harvesting corn and beans in the fall.  

It sprouts and develops over the winter.

Farmers are reporting superior yields in some areas. 

Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said his family has seen yields of as high as 92 bushels per acre from their farmland, with excellent test weights – a critical measure of quality and value.

Wheat is currently selling at market in the $5 per bushel range, which is an average price. 

Test weights are measured in pounds per bushel.  Once wheat has ripened and ready to harvest, if it is rained on and dries, the kernels swell slightly and less wheat fits into a bushel. Thus, test weights fall.  

Farmers who were able to harvest before the recent average two-inch rains are seeing test weights in the 60 pounds per bushel range.  

Those harvesting now are seeing 57-58 pound results, and from 58 pounds per bushel and less, there is a penalty in prices earned when they sell their wheat.  

Parker thus called this “…a tale of two harvests: before and after the recent spate of rain.”  

That bushel of wheat can yield about 42 pounds of white flour.

Spraying  wheat with chemicals known as fungicides as it ripened in past weeks – including with ground vehicles, planes and helicopters – has greatly reduced the vomitoxin disease that can cut value and even make the harvested wheat unusable as animal feed. 

Planting the county’s two other primary crops –corn and soybeans – has been delayed by the same rains that have hampered wheat harvesting.  

In addition, flooding in the bottom areas of Monroe County adjacent to the Mississippi and Kaskaskia rivers has stalled planting.  

And while farmers hope there will be no more rain until they have brought in their wheat, they will want to see it return to help corn and beans planted this spring thrive.

Through the summer’s heat, in fact, farmers will welcome periodic rain and caution we are otherwise often only a week away from a drought.

Farming continues to be an educated guessing game.  

Wheat was planted last fall without certainty of prices it would bring this spring and summer.  In addition, the impacts of potential international trade issues were, and still are, unknown.

Farmers could not possibly know what harvesting conditions would be months down the calendar.  

And now farmers are crossing fingers their after late corn and second crop bean planting.

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