- Associated Press - Monday, June 16, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The winter wheat harvest is getting off to a slow, soggy start in Kansas.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that about 2 percent of the crop has been cut. That is better than last year, but well behind the 19 percent historical average for mid-June.

Statewide, about 28 percent the wheat is mature. Seventy-one percent is ripe in south-central Kansas, where growers have begun cutting between rainfalls once fields dry enough to get the combines back in. Cutting resumed Monday afternoon after being shut down again by Saturday rains.

Farmers in the Kiowa area are typically among the first in Kansas to start cutting. But the intermittent rains have not allowed most local growers two straight full days of cutting. Farmers are for the most part waiting until fields dry out between rains before getting combines in them because the drought-stunted wheat is barely a foot high, said Steve Inslee, manager at OK Co-op Grain elevator in Kiowa.

“There is so little wheat out there that nobody is excited about getting it out of the fields,” he said.

The elevator has taken in about 125,000 bushels so far, but yields have been so bad that Inslee said he will be happy if it brings in 25 percent of a normal crop.

Yields have been ranging from 8 to 20 bushels an acre, with averages of about 12 bushels, Inslee said. Early test weights of 58 pounds a bushel have been falling with each rainfall.

“If it keeps raining, I am OK with that - even though it is deteriorating the bushels,” Inslee said. “Keep it raining, we need it to break this drought.”

Widespread showers across the state have helped improve soil moisture supplies and pastures, NASS said. One to two inches of rain was common, with some parts in central and northeast Kansas reporting up to 5 inches.

But the rains have come too late to help the drought-stricken winter wheat crop, most of which had already ripened.

The latest weekly update from the government shows 63 percent of the Kansas wheat is in poor to very poor condition. Twenty-six percent is rated as fair, with 10 percent in good and 1 percent in excellent condition.

However, all the recent moisture has helped bolster the spring-planted crops in Kansas:

- Corn condition was rated as 2 percent very poor, 7 percent poor, 41 percent fair, 44 percent good and 6 percent excellent.

-Sorghum was rated as 4 percent poor, 48 percent fair, 45 percent good and 3 percent excellent

-Soybeans were rated as 1 percent very poor, 2 percent poor, 41 percent fair, 51 percent good and 5 percent excellent.

In Kiowa, Inslee tried to see the upside of the moisture despite the fact it came too late to help most of the state’s wheat crop.

“It is what it is,” Inslee said. “We’lll wait for next year and hope for more favorable things. Hope for a fall crop, you know, if the rains will keep coming on.”

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