Wheat ‘rests’ the soil

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November 16, 2010 - 12:00 AM

“We needed a fall like this to get caught up with field work and maintenance,” Shawn Geffert said Monday afternoon of the unusually cooperative weather.
Five years ago Geffert took over full-time responsibility of the family farm operation from his father, Mike Geffert, between Iola and Humboldt.
He’s since established a reputation for being conscientious and “getting things done.”
Corn and soybeans were harvested “about Oct. 10,” Geffert said. “We had the wheat planted by mid-October.”
Geffert has since planted winter wheat, though only about half of what he originally thought he would. Regionally, the planting of winter wheat is up.
Input costs caused second thoughts, Geffert said. Fertilizer and seed costs are about $115 an acre. If the yield next spring hits the average of 30 bushels an acre and the price holds — wheat is about $6 a bushel today — gross income would be $180 an acre.
That sounds enticing until cost of production is factored in.
“You’ll be doing good to average $20 an acre (profit),” said Mike Geffert.
That likely will pale in comparison to net income from corn and soybeans.
Corn has a comparable price of $5 a bushel, but yields of well over 100 bushels an acre are relatively common, which, even with higher input costs, produces a better margin. Same is true of soybeans, which fetched more than $11 a bushel at harvest this fall.
Which raises the question of why Geffert put in any wheat at all.
“Mainly for the rotation, and,” he quipped, “this is Kansas, the wheat state.”
Having wheat in a crop rotation restores nutrients to the soil, Geffert noted.
Disadvantage, from his perspective, is that he has no intention of following the wheat with soybeans after its June harvest.
“I’ll put wheat back in next fall and then second crop with beans in 2012,” he said.
Even with the advent of modern fertilizer applications, soil needs time to rest and heal, he said.

STATISTICALLY, 2010 has been a wet year in Allen County. Through today 42.54 inches of moisture has fallen on Iola; the annual average is 37.71.
The annual total, however, is not nearly as important as when the rains fall.
An inch and a half of rain in the Iola area in the past week has been a godsend for wheat.
“It needed a rain,” Geffert said. “It would have been nice a couple of weeks earlier, but it’s not too late. My wheat is all up and looking good.”
Wheat has growth spurts that are dependent on moisture at regular intervals. Even so, it is a dryland crop and excessive rain is just as debilitating as too little.
“The rain we got will last quite a while,” Geffert predicted, noting that cool nights and short days — the sun will be above horizons barely 10 hours today — will keep the ground moist.
“Right now we’re in pretty good condition going into winter,” Geffert said, “but how the wheat does will depend on what happens in the spring.”
Several years ago a late freeze cut the yields deeply.
Geffert is reminded of what occurred earlier this year in assessing the necessity of rainfall at the right times.
Corn did well, but would have been better with more timely rainfall. Same was true of soybeans. Income was good because of the price, but would have been much better had August not turned as hot and dry as it did.

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