"Average" Wheat Harvest a Big Improvement over Drought Years


Devastated by drought, Nebraska farmers get to work on this year's wheat harvest, hoping for better results.

Semi loads fill up as winter wheat harvest gets underway.

Lance Atwater of Blue Hill said, "A lot of guys are just starting to get rolling this week. I'd say you'll see a lot of wheat come out this week, into first part of next week depending on the weather."

Atwater says it looks like a pretty typical crop. "I'd say what I've cut is about average."

And after two years of drought, farmers will take average. To get a sense of how bad things were, the USDA figures harvested acres to be up 24 percent from last year. That's a big jump, just to get back to a normal year.

Some farmers have taken a hit from severe weather, but otherwise have received rain.

Atwater said, "We've been pretty fortunate, we've missed most of the hail. We did have a couple fields get hit, but overall we've been luck to catch the rains."

After the drought, Lance says crop rotation was something they thought about, so they planted winter wheat last September to harvest this summer, and plant another crop next spring.

"Gives the ground break, instead of, give a longer period between crops. You're extending between corn and wheat and have a few months in there, allows the ground to collect more moisture and there is a yield advantage when you put corn into wheat stubble," Atwater said.

The Atwaters raise corn and beans too, and are getting ready to turn the water on.

"Last year we were irrigating in June, this year we're just starting after the 4th, so it's good for the groundwater, allowing farmers to have a little break in there before we hit it hard when it gets dry," Lance said.

The Wheat Board tells NTV they'll be watching the crop reports. Given the freezes late in the spring and the hail, some areas struggled. But others benefited from timely rains.