By Amy Bickel
The Hutchinson News
LAKIN - In this part of Kansas, where rain comes sparingly, Gary
Millershaski is watching the weather as his family cuts wheat in Kearny
There was a chance for storms Tuesday night, he said optimistically.
It's been so dry, after all, that rain would be a blessing. It would
help his milo come up out of its furrow. It would give his dryland corn a
However, for the past two months, chances of rain have just blown by.
"We could have an 80 percent chance of rain and not buy a drop," he said
of this year's dry spell, then joked, "Actually, they change the
weather forecast more than I change my underwear."
The one thing that hasn't changed, however, is the drought, which is heading into a second year.
The year started out hopeful after one of the worst droughts since the 1930s Dust Bowl.
Millershaski said a rain came in October, helping farmers get good
stands of wheat. Winter brought a nice snow, followed by a few small
showers that made conditions better than last year.
Then everything shut off, he said.
"We haven't got much over a quarter of an inch since the first of
April," he said. "Our pastures and the wheat stubble are the same
Still, southwest Kansas' wheat harvest is better than last year when his
crop, decimated by both hail and drought, yielded a farm average of 16
bushels an acre.
"That was, by far, the worst crop I've had," he said. "This year I'm
hoping for a 25 to 30 bushel average, but it is so sporadic."
It was dry and warm enough this spring to cause some of his wheat crop to die prematurely.
"It just ran out of moisture," Millershaski said, noting those acres made 15 to 20 bushels an acre.
A wheat, fallow, wheat rotation, however, faired better, making 30 to 50
bushels an acre. That was just a small percentage of the area's crop,
Ken Jameson, grain division vice president at Garden City Co-op, said
the Finney County-based cooperative will take in about 60 percent of a
normal crop, compared to just 40 percent in 2011.
Yields are across the board, he said, from 6 to 65 bushels an acre,
depending on what fields caught a rain. The company's territory in Gove
and Lane counties, along the Smoky Hill River, caught timely rains that
pushed yields higher, he said.
In Ford County, Jerald Kemmerer, general manager of Dodge City-based
Pride Ag Resources, said harvest in his territory would be about 75
percent of normal, compared to just half a crop last year.
Heat and no rain in May took its toll.
"Timely rains would have made it a normal crop," he said. "We got into
the last part of May with no moisture and that just put a killing to
At Plains Equity Exchange in Meade County, grain merchandiser Steve
Thummel said harvest started May 23 - one of the earliest starts, if not
the earliest. Yields on dryland averaged around 25 bushels an acre with
some of the irrigated yielding 45 to 60 bushels an acre.
He is hopeful the drought pattern will break, he said.
"If you live out here, we don't get a lot of rain," he said. "So we keep
looking and waiting for the next one. We're just one day closer."