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Planted wheat acres in Kansas may be lowest in century

December 24, 2018

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Low prices and a surplus of wheat have moved farmers away from the Kansas staple for the past two years.

Now the wet weather that has kept growers out of their fields during planting time this fall could further push the state’s winter wheat acres for next year’s crop toward the lowest point in a century.

Acres planted to wheat in 2017 and 2018 neared 100-year lows, The Hutchinson News reported. Last year’s 7.7 million wheat acres hit the lowest point in 60 years.

Winter wheat is planted in the fall in Kansas. The wet weather that delayed wheat planting also slowed down fall harvest of other crops. Some farmers who planned to plant wheat following grain sorghum or soybeans didn’t have time to plant once harvest was over. Many were harvesting late into November.

“We had fewer acres planted plus abandonment will be much higher than the normal 10 percent because many stands, especially in north-central, central and south-central Kansas, are poor because of wet and cold weather,” said Lane County wheat farmer Vance Ehmke.

Unplanted acres that were meant for wheat won’t stay that way. Farmers will likely plant soybeans, grain sorghum or other crops in those fields in the spring.

“If farmers don’t make any money doing something, they eventually quit doing it, and as is the case with wheat, when they cut back on production, surpluses disappear and prices go back up,” Ehmke said.

Former Kansas State University Extension wheat marketing specialist Bill Tierney, now a market analyst for Ag Resource in Chicago, outlined data in a report showing that while Western Kansas enjoyed one of the highest prices for wheat — at around $5.41 per bushel — it also had one of the highest average costs of production over the four-year period at $5.69 per bushel.

With lower average yields and higher costs of production, the report notes that from 2013 to 2016 the average Western Kansas wheat producer lost around 12 cents per acre — before low prices and unfavorable weather hit.

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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