Many Missouri farmers not expecting good wheat harvest

Friday, June 11, 2010 | 11:19 a.m. CDT; updated 11:27 a.m. CDT, Friday, June 11, 2010

LAMAR — David Sheat gave up on wheat this year.

"This will be the first year — and I've been farming for 50 years — that I will not have any wheat at all," said Sheat, who farms near Lamar.

He normally plants 360 acres of wheat, and last fall he put in 125 acres.

"We ended up tearing it up," he said of the latest crop. "It just really rotted in the field. Too wet, too cold, too quick."

Others also are saying Missouri's wheat crop won't amount to much this year.

Tom Dingman, a Barton County farmer who said he normally plants about 600 acres of wheat, put in 260 acres of winter wheat last fall.

"A lot of it is not a very good stand," he said.

For Dingman, a good yield might be 50 bushels per acre.

"I imagine this year if we get 30, we'll be doing pretty good," he said. "Some won't even make that. Barton County was hurt by too much rain last year."

That's the story farmers and university extension specialists are telling around the region. A wet spring in 2009 delayed planting of corn and soybeans. That meant those crops came on late and farmers were late getting them out of their fields, which prevented planting of winter wheat. And what was planted in southwest Missouri hasn't done well.

Gene Danekas, director of the Missouri Field Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, said this year's wheat harvest in Missouri may be near a record low. State production recently was forecast at 14.2 million bushels, which is 58 percent below 2009's figure and 74 percent below the harvest in 2008. Record production for Missouri came in 1981, at 116 million bushels.

"It was the late harvest last fall — corn, soybeans, a lot of it didn't get harvested until November," Danekas said.

At the end of September, only 19 percent of the corn had been harvested statewide, compared with 50 to 60 percent in a normal year.

The winter wheat crop in the area usually is planted about mid-October.

And much of the wheat in the region is disease-ridden, said Jay Chism, agronomist with the University of Missouri Extension office in Lamar.

Barton County is one of the largest wheat-producing counties in Missouri, but this year production is down sharply, and the yield from what was planted is expected to be miserly. Barton County normally sees as much as 50,000 acres of wheat planted each fall, and while there are no numbers yet for this year's crop, Chism doesn't expect much.

"It's just fair at best," he said of the wheat that was planted. "(There's) a lot of disease in the wheat because of the moisture we had."

The bulk of wheat grown in Barton County is soft red winter wheat, used for things such as pastries; hard red winter wheat, which is grown in Kansas and the Dakotas, is used in breads.

Chism doesn't expect a large economic impact in the region because the wheat harvest is down, however. Prices are down, too, he said, at least for the soft red wheat, and farmers didn't have an economic incentive to keep at it.

The wheat harvest already has begun in Texas and Oklahoma, and in Missouri's Bootheel and is moving into Kansas; it usually starts in southwest Missouri around mid-June.

Sheat, the Barton County farmer, said he normally double-crops, which means he plants soybeans after the wheat is cut. Since he tore out his wheat, he'll just go straight to beans. Traditionally, first-crop soybeans yield five to 10 bushels more per acre than double-crop beans, so he hopes to pick up some of the slack there.

He said that between the anticipated higher bean yields and crop insurance, he could still have a good year.

"I really feel like we are going to come out all right," Sheat said. "If we hadn't had (crop) insurance, it would be tough."

But he doesn't expect much out of the wheat next year, either.

"The wheat situation is so bad now," he said Tuesday. "Our yesterday price was $3.62 per bushel. We're going to have to see $5 wheat to do us any good.

"Even if we had wheat, we wouldn't have a very good income from it. I'll be one who will not plant near what I normally do. I may not plant any if this situation doesn't look any better than it does now."


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