With close to 10 tons of grain on board Monday afternoon, Brian Specht raised the 32-foot header on his combine and headed for a nearby semi-trailer to unload.
The first patch of wheat he cut on Saturday made 75 bushels an acre.
“This is better,” he said of an expansive field north of Piqua. “It’s dry and test weight is real good at 62 pounds.”
Anytime test weight inches above the industry standard of 60 pounds that’s good news. Payment is based on that weight, which means for every 30 bushels cut at 62 pounds, Specht gets paid for an extra bushel.
“We had a few tests come in last week,” said Ken Smail, Piqua Farmers Co-op manager. “Then, cutting started over a wide area on Saturday. That’s a little unusual,” with normal progression being the harvest starts in one area and in a few days spreads to others.
Dry wheat with good test weights is the rule this year for area farmers, he added. Many fields are yielding 60 or better bushels an acre.
“Of course, we’ve had some 40- and 50-bushel wheat,” Smail said. “I’ve also heard of some 80-bushel.”
The co-op took in about 70,000 bushels over the weekend. With hot, dry weather forecast this week, trucks will be coming in a steady stream. Monday afternoon the dust had hardly settled on roads leading to Piqua before another truck came along.
The blue-colored header on Specht’s otherwise green John Deere machine is something of an innovation for the area. It strips grain from wheat heads and leaves essentially all of the straw standing upright. He figures that will be an advantage when he shifts from harvesting to putting soybeans on wheat ground with a no-till planter.
“As heavy as the straw is this year, if it was laid down (as it is in conventional harvesting), it would be hard to no-till soybeans through the straw,” Specht said. “I think it’s going to work a lot better with the straw still standing.”
Dave Bedenbender, cutting wheat a few miles away, agreed, with straw matting recently cut fields.
Also, standing straw will be about as good a mulch factor as plant residue laid on the ground, with it shading soil still moist by recent heavy rains. That will give later-planted soybeans a good start.
“Look at this,” Specht said, as he scraped the field’s surface. “The ground is still moist on top.”
Corn and soybeans, planted on worked ground before farmers turned their attention to the wheat harvest, have done well, particularly on upland where seed wasn’t washed away by downpours. Corn is approaching shoulder height in some places and it isn’t difficult to find nearly knee-high soybeans.
“They’re doing fine right now,” Specht said of the two main cash crops, but allowed “we probably will be wanting a rain in a week or so.” The success of corn and soybeans will depend on rain in July and August.
“But I want to get my wheat out before it rains,” he said, with the anticipation that about 10 days of good cutting weather would have practically all of the area’s wheat in bins.
Smail doesn’t expect any problems handling what from all indications is going to be one of the biggest wheat harvests ever hereabouts.
“We have plenty of storage, and we’re hauling grain out as fast as we can,” he said.
“A lot of farmers were selling wheat over the weekend,” Smail added, but thinks more will decide on storage with prices dropping, a reality that occurs with robust yields.
“Wheat was $7.05 (per bushel) last week and it took a pretty good hit today (Monday) and dropped to $6.79,” he said.
That’s not too disturbing, though, given that 70-bushel wheat, which early in the harvest has been common, translates to income of about $475 an acre.
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