PIQUA — “I’m amazed,” said Marvin Lynch, after checking in a load of soybeans at the Farmers Cooperative elevator here late Wednesday morning. “I would have bet on Sept. 1 that we wouldn’t dump a bushel of beans this year.”
Several showers in September and more than two inches of rain a couple of days late in the month made the difference.
Dave Bedenbender, who farms north of Piqua, agreed an hour later while he munched a cheeseburger at Silverado’s, Piqua’s only lunch counter.
“My early beans didn’t do anything, but the later ones, they just hung on and came back when the rain finally came,” he said.
Lynch figured 30 percent of acreage devoted to beans had been harvested by mid-week, including those likely to yield the most.
“I imagine 40 percent of the bushels have been cut,” he said, in expansion of his harvest estimate.
“I’ve cut 200 acres and have about 400 to go,” Bedenbender said, in harmony with Lynch’s assessment.
“Up on the prairie they’re making 15 to 20 bushels and probably 30 in the creek bottom,” he said. “I disked under about 200 acres of after-wheat beans. They weren’t going to make anything.”
“The beans we’ve taken in so far are averaging 30 to 40 bushels (an acre),” Lynch said, with most of them coming from “good dirt and ones that caught a shower or two” ahead of the late September downpour.
“Last year the better beans were north of Piqua, this year they’re south,” he said.
“Some of our best beans have come from customers west of Humboldt,” said Ken Smail, who is succeeding Lynch as elevator manager.
“What we’ve gotten also are good quality,” Lynch observed. “They’re big and have nice color.”
Technology has caught up with the elevator.
Not long ago, Lynch or another employee would manually pull a sample of beans from the bed of an incoming truck and then weigh and test the sample to determine quality.
Now, a test sample speeds through a suction pipe dropped in a truck at the push of a button and analysis is done by computer. The readout tells weight per bushel and moisture content to determine if price paid should be docked.
One of Bedenbender’s samples had a 3.6 percent dock, meaning instead of $15.32 a bushel, he received $14.77. The base price also changes frequently with new prices gleaned from computer connected by Internet to major markets.
SOYBEANS are the talk of the ag community. Wheat isn’t far behind.
Rich green wheat, tall enough already to wave gently in the wind, in a field east of Piqua is accentuated by corn stalks, with the farmer eager to get some return from the acreage where drought-plagued corn made maybe 30 bushels. Other fields of wheat, in various stages of development, dot the landscape.
Down the road, where soybeans had been harvested, Mike Kramer wheeled a powerful tractor that pulled a field cultivator fitted with nozzles to insert nitrogen into the soil from trailing tanks.
“Getting ready to plant wheat?” Kramer was asked.
“Sure am,” he replied, during a brief break in the process.
“Most everyone tells me they’re going to plant more wheat this year,” said Lynch, who last spring noted that with the winter crop doing so well, “We should have planted it wall to wall.”
“People at other elevators tell me the same thing,” he added. “There’s a lot of wheat going in this fall.”
Corn was a flop, although most farmers had sufficient insurance to cut losses to a minimum, and soybeans, even with a better crop than expected, aren’t living up to usual standards.
Wheat is fetching about $8.57 a bushel, and “we’re contracting at $8 for harvest next summer,” Lynch said, which gives the crop good prospects with historic average yield of about 40 bushels an acre.
Wheat is a dryland crop and seldom does poorly in eastern Kansas, which gives farmers some assurance better times are just a growing season away.
CAUTION IS the watchword for those who have immersed themselves in agriculture.
Forty bushels an acre and $8 a bushel for wheat translates to $320 for each acre harvested, Lynch allowed, but, he reminded that production has costs.
“You’re talking $30 an acre for seed, maybe $100 for fertilizer,” he said. “And then there are land costs, machinery expenses, fuel and taxes. They all affect the bottom line.”
But, there is profit to be made.
The downside is such crops as this year’s corn, even with insurance, left farmers with little or no return for their efforts.
Soybeans look better, but they still are going to be short compared to the average.
“In a normal year we’ll take in 500,000 bushels of beans,” Lynch said. “Last year (also beset by drought) we got in 220,000 bushels and are at about 90,000 bushels right now. We may reach last year’s total by end of harvest.”