Higher protein helps to offset poorer wheat yields

The region's wheat farmers, who generally enjoyed excellent yields in 2009 and 2010, didn't do as well this year, officials say. "Sixty-bushel straw, 40-bushel wheat," Randy Englund, executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission, say of...

The region's wheat farmers, who generally enjoyed excellent yields in 2009 and 2010, didn't do as well this year, officials say.

"Sixty-bushel straw, 40-bushel wheat," Randy

Englund, executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission, say of the wheat crop in his state.

By that, he means wheat fields didn't yield as much grain as indicated by the straw stand.

Officials in North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana say much the same thing about wheat in their respective states. Wet conditions this spring, along with too much heat and humidity this summer, all worked against wheat in the region.


The spring wheat harvest in South Dakota is virtually wrapped up, apart from a few fields that were planted unusually late.

Englund says the average spring wheat yield in the state definitely will fall short of the 42 bushels per acre in 2010 and 44 bushels per acre in 2009.

Hot weather this summer hurt South Dakota wheat, he says. Wheat, a cool-season grass, typically fares best when it avoids too much heat.

One advantage over last year: This year's crop generally has higher protein than the 2010 wheat crop, which generally means fewer discounts, or price reductions, on this year's wheat.

That will help to offset the reduction in bushels,

Englund and others say.

Still, the disappointingly small wheat crop this year will encourage farmers in his state to grow more corn and soybeans and less wheat next year.

As he notes, farmers in his state can sell corn for "$7 (per bushel) off the combine." With corn yielding 150 bushels per acre, corn can gross roughly $1,000 per acre -- an amount that wheat can't match.


Wrapping up in Minnesota

Minnesota wheat farmers, who by the middle of September had harvested all but a few late-planted fields, didn't enjoy a particularly good year, says Dave Torgerson, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers.

"It was too wet in planting. Some areas were really wet," he says.

He estimates average yields in the state are down a half-dozen bushels or so from 55 bushels per acre in 2010.

Most of Minnesota's wheat is grown in the western part of the state, much of it in the Red River Valley. Farmers in the southern Red River Valley have a longer growing season than those in the northern end of the valley, which gives farmers in the southern valley more opportunity to grow corn and soybeans.

Given attractive corn and soybean prices, some farmers in the southern valley may adjust their crop rotation to grow more of those crops and less wheat next spring, Torgerson says.

Variability in North Dakota

Spring wheat yields vary greatly across North Dakota, with big differences even from farm to farm, farmers and others say.


"We've had reports (of spring wheat yields) in the teens and in the 40s a few miles away," says Jim Peterson, marketing director of the North Dakota Wheat Commission.

It's too early to have a firm handle on the state's average spring wheat yield, he says. Even if the weather is ideal for combining, the spring wheat harvest won't be wrapped up until the final week of September.

But Peterson estimates the average yield per acre statewide will be in the mid-30s, down from 44 bushels per acre and the 40 bushels per acre that the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast Sept. 1.

Keep in mind that the state enjoyed excellent yields in both 2009 and 2010, which means this year's crop is better than a this year vs. last year comparison might suggest, Peterson says.

Test weights were generally high last year, which helped yields. This year, test weights often are relatively low, hurting yields.

The harvest of durum, of which North Dakota is the nation's leading producer, was about half finished by the middle of September. Wet weather this spring in the state's top durum-producing areas delayed durum planting.

Because the crop is so late, frost in mid-September would do more damage than usual.

Average durum yields in the state will fall below the 37.5 bushels per acre in 2010 and the 33 bushels per acre forecast by USDA Sept. 1, Peterson says.


'Average' in Montana

Montana wheat farmers began this growing season with high hopes, thanks to better-than-average moisture this spring.

With wheat harvest past the halfway point, it appears the state will end up with only an average crop overall, officials say.

"The reports vary a great deal. Some (farmers) say this is the best harvest ever. Other say it's dismal, a disaster," says Lola Raska, executive vice president of the Montana Grain Growers Association.

One sign of how much conditions vary in the state: Randy Hinebauch, a Chinook, Mont., farmer, says he wrapped up his wheat harvest in late August. In contrast, some of his neighbors weren't able to plant at all, while other neighbors will be harvesting wheat into October.

Montana enjoyed a record yield of 41.4 bushels per acre for all wheat and 38 bushels per acre for spring wheat.

Early this spring, it appeared Montana growers might have a chance to match or exceed those records because of plentiful moisture.

But rain continued to fall, causing some areas to become too wet. Later in summer, the rains quit, hurting fields that would have benefited from a shower or two, Raska says.

What To Read Next
Get Local


Agweek's Picks