Aaron Harris


(Conrad) Good morning and welcome to Farm Factor on AGam in Kansas. I’m your host Conrad Kabus. May 2015 is on record for being one of the wettest months in the state of Kansas, along with Oklahoma and Texas. The historic rainfall washed away an economically draining drought that plagued parts of the state for years. Recently Farm Factor spoke with Aaron Harris, Vice President of Research Operations at Kansas Wheat, about the outlook for this year’s harvest. (Aaron) This harvest year has brought many challenges. I think we started with the drought affecting the crop right up until May 1st, basically across the state. The crop was stressed by drought and we saw those effects when many people from across the U.S. did the Wheat Tour in early May. When the rain started falling we could see that the crop had been stressed quite a bit by the drought. What was different this year is that the flip switched and starting on May 1st and through May and into June, the rain started falling. So this was a good harvest to determine how the wheat plant responds to that rain. And the only way to find out is by running the combines through the fields, seeing what we end of up with yield and quality. (Conrad) This year was unique for wheat because of the rainfall that had stalled progress and devastated fields, with some fields suffering from droughts and others suffering from excess rain in May. (Aaron) I think it’s a challenge to compare this to any other drought year because there were so many variables. When we planted wheat this past fall, for this crop there was actually some moisture. The drought situation was during the winter and into the spring. So, it wasn’t a full fledged drought. And then the other caveat here is that it did start raining in May, which is a very critical production time for the wheat crop when it’s filling out that grain. So, it’s not going to be really hard to find years for a comparison like this. I think what we’ll learn is just how late is too late for that rain to effect the drought stricken wheat and we’ll find that out this year. (Conrad) With the supply of U.S. wheat in abundance, the question for wheat farmers is the quality of the crop this year. (Aaron) The trade picture is what it’s been for a few months now is that there’s not a lot of worldwide demand for wheat, just because the supply is so adequate and surplus. Now there’s a lot of eyes obviously on the U.S. crop. The rain is going to have a bigger impact on the Texas and Oklahoma crop quality because it’s been raining there…it rained when they were ready to harvest. The wheat here in Kansas is getting rained on, but it was a little bit later in the process. So, there’s always going to be demand for the Hard Red Winter Wheat from the central United States. The USDA does not expect this to be a big export year for the United States in relative comparison to the last few years, which have been excellent. There’s just too much wheat in production. But all those other factors come into play, how much wheat is Canada going to produce? How much wheat are we gonna produce in the United States as a whole?

(Conrad) Good morning and welcome to Farm Factor on AGam In Kansas. I’m Conrad Kabus. In May, rainfall washed away an economically draining drought that plagued parts of the state for years. Recently we spoke with Aaron Harris, Vice President of Research Operations at Kansas Wheat about the harvest this year and what the anticipations are for the quality of wheat. (Aaron) Kansas wheat is funding research for the wheat crop on two phases. Obviously we are looking at improved genetics for drought and heat tolerance which came into play this year when the drought affected the crop early on. I think another important component of it is what happened when it gets too wet? We are really seeing a two-sided coin here in this harvest, drought stress early but now that we’ve seen all this rain and water in May and June we’re really looking at a lot of disease pressure. And that’s the other side of wheat genetics that we have to look into. Taking new wheat varieties and getting better wheat genetics for disease resistance, rust resistance, scab – those are two big problems that have emerged every time it rains and especially this year. It’s never a simple solution. We always look at drought but we have to look at the disease side of it. And unfortunately, we’re seeing both of those this year. In the far western third of the state, the drought had a huge effect on it. We went there in May and the crop was very short, obviously drought stressed and didn’t look like it had much potential. But recent conversations with him explained that and he said he wouldn’t believe, or I wouldn’t believe how much the wheat has responded to the rainfall, growing a lush plant, producing big heads of wheat. And he thought some wheat that might yield only 10 to 15 bushels an acre, might actually make 40 bushels an acre. I guess the bottom line we always learn from these sorts of scenarios is never give up on the wheat plant. It’s a pretty tough plant. Just when you think the drought may have killed it and the rains are too late, the rain can turn things around. So, it’s all about timing, it’s all about moisture, it’s all about temperature and I think we’ll see a lot of those stories this year. (Conrad) Kansas is also having additional issues with disease reports continuing to pour in. Disease has been a big issue this year as well, with stripe rust and leaf rust coming on strong in late April and early May. But the outlook is positive for Kansas State University and Kansas Wheat. (Aaron) I think the real question is the quality of the crop. You know, are we gonna see sprouting problems with the wheat that’s been rained on? How much has the disease, the widespread stripe rust and scab, how much does that affect yield? Shrunken and broken kernels, the quality of the crop? And another big question mark is what is ultimately going to be the protein level of this crop? Which is important to domestic and international customers. Typically we associate drought conditions with higher protein. But then the wetter conditions started in May. So, it will be…I’m curious to see how those protein numbers are going to play out. Did the drought have a bigger effect? Did the rain have a bigger effect? Are we gonna see protein numbers close to average? So, I’m curious to see how that works.

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