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Brian: Wet weather and weeds make for difficult decisions

Minneola, KS – I wish I didn’t have time to write this update today, and instead harvesting wheat here in Minneola. Sadly, the weather has been very uncooperative since our arrival in Kansas. I find myself sitting in the trailer tonight after another wide-sweeping storm halted harvest in the entire Western half of Kansas.

IMG_7303 Our trailer houses parked in Minneola, KS, shared with another harvesting crew. The sonic ambience of the Rail Road tracks 100 feet away is usual for us rural folks!

I shared before how the wheat was so thin due to the drought conditions that have plagued SW Kansas for quite some time. Ironically (now that harvest time is here) storms have been popping up every few days, bringing moisture that halts the combines and causes weeds to thrive. High humidity, cooler (for Kansas) temperatures in the 80’s and little wind has made for short harvest windows.


We find ourselves eating lunch at the trailers and then going out to the fields mid-afternoon, only getting in partial days and making slow progress. Our worst case scenario is starting to take shape. Short wheat, immature green berries (caused by the drought) and weeds taking advantage of the thin stand are starting to cause real issues. We are having a hard time getting the grain moisture low enough to harvest. And the weeds have grown so much we are now starting to have to abandon areas that have been completely overtaken. The weeds have caused the machines to plug up internally a few times, leading to a very unpleasant clean-out by hand (a time-wasting process).


It’s a disheartening challenge for harvesters and farmers alike. With more rain chances in the forecast it is critical we wrap up here in Minneola. Farmers will have to make a choice of either chemically spraying the weeds to kill them (an expensive choice given the poor return on low yields and low prices), or abandon the wheat all together (a very undesirable option, but one chosen on some fields in this area). What we need is 100 degree days and 35 mph winds like when we arrived, but unfortunately that is not in the immediate forecast.

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The other conundrum is our next stop in Sublette, Kansas is ready to be harvested. As you can imagine that farmer is eager for us to begin, but our slow progress in Minneola means we are held up. This is one of the hardest (and most stressful) parts of a custom harvester’s life…needing to harvest in two places at once. Sublette has been receiving the same rains as we have here in Minneola, so we really couldn’t be harvesting over there either (a slight silver lining to the situation perhaps). Another looming heartache…muddy ground conditions if forecasting rains materialize.

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We are grateful to work for farmers that are as much friends as they are customers, and they recognize the tough situation we are in. After 35 years this is not the first time we have experienced this scenario, and somehow the situation always resolves itself (even when it seems impossible). All we can do is hope the weather allows us the window we need to harvest. When you are in this business, the weather dictates your every move. Flexibility is the name of the game.

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Let’s hope my next update will have a little better news to share and a few more photos of actual harvest. Or better yet, a video blog when we are back into full-on harvest mode!

Until then, check out the video bellow of the furious winds as we race home from the fields during another Kansas storm.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Laura can be reached at brian@allaboardharvest.com.


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