Once the 2013 wheat harvest in Pratt County finally got started, it got started all over the county. Cutting actually began in the northwest part of the state first then moved south as opposed to the usual south to north cutting migration.
Part of the reason for the early harvest in the northwest is hail damage that caused the wheat to mature early. Also the western part of the state is still feeling the affects of the drought and the wheat is just not producing a very good quality product.
The pace is picking up and with the combination of wind, hot temperatures and dry weather conditions, it won't be long until the entire county will be harvesting, said Mark Ploger, Pratt County Extension agent.
The hot days and low humidity mean combines can cut fairly late into the evening and then get started earlier the next day.
So far the test weights have ranged from 55 bushel per acre to some showing 61 and 62 bushel. Most of the wheat that is ready to cut is very dry in the 11 to 13 percent range.
Some later wheat will take a few days longer to get ready but it won't be long until combines will be working everywhere.
Some area wheat fields are showing signs of wheat going down. Late freezes and a lack of moisture have made some of the stalks brittle and unable to stand up. Combines will have to drive slow and keep the headers low to pick up the wheat and that will slow the harvest down.
"It takes a little more time to get it all when it's like that," Ploger said.
With the poor crops in Oklahoma and Texas, many harvesters have already finished their work there and have moved to Kansas. Some of those crews are waiting until the fields get ready to ripen.
"We're having no problem getting combines. We have more combines than we have wheat fields ready to go," Ploger said.
It seems that fields are getting ripe all over Kansas at the same time. Cutting was already happening as far north as Beloit. That could present a problem in Pratt County later if cutters have to move on to take care of customers further north.
However, with poor crops in the west part of the state, harvesters may stick around this area where they still have wheat to cut, Ploger said.
Farmers and harvesters are keeping a close eye on the weather. While it looks good now they all know that hail can wipe out a crop in minutes like it did earlier this week in Kiowa County where it completely wiped out a field with baseball size hail.
Harvest had to stop for about a half day following a fast moving rainstorm earlier this week, but once the sun came out it didn't take long for cutters to get back into the field.
If the weather stays hot, dry and windy, harvest will probably take about 10 days to complete.
While farmers are anxious to get the wheat in the elevator, some are taking time to enter the county wheat competition. Samples are taken at the elevators when the grain is brought in then the farmer's name and wheat variety are recorded and kept at the elevator until Ploger collects the information cards.
The wheat is taken to Dodge City to the grain inspection service for official grading. The same is done across the state at the six grain inspection stations. The wheat is graded for weight, protein, dockage, foreign materials, milling and baking quality. The winners of each class or variety are entered in the state fair.
In 2012 Lowell Brenner of Cullison was a state champion.