July 6, 2007 | By: Laura Skillman

In case you blinked and missed it, Kentucky’s 2007 wheat harvest is pretty well finished. It didn’t take long, with a large chunk of the crop lost to an April freeze. The weather damage resulted in this year’s wheat crop being among the smallest in nearly three decades and caused millions in lost dollars to farmers.

“This is a year all of us involved in wheat are going to be glad to have behind us,” said Chad Lee, grains crop specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Last fall, 440,000 acres were planted in wheat of which about 360,000 were expected to be harvested for grain with the rest being used as cover crop, silage or hay. However, after the freeze, estimates are that only about 240,000 acres were harvested for grain, according to the June 29 crop acreage report issued by the Kentucky Field Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service. The rest was destroyed or cut for hay or silage, then replanted with corn or soybeans.

Wheat yields have been ranging from 30 bushels per acre to 70 bushels, Lee said. Much of the 70-bushel yields are being recorded in fields that sustained minor damage from the freeze.

The 30-bushel yields, however, are somewhat higher than expected, Lee noted. These yields are coming from fields that had severely damaged stems where yields were expected to be even more severely reduced. Dry, hot weather after the freeze may have been a contributing factor to these fields yielding more than anticipated.

The damaged stems were able to stand and mature in the dry conditions whereas rain and wind would likely have knocked them over and ruined grain development, he said. In addition, there were little disease or insect problems going into harvest.

Straw is an important secondary crop for some wheat growers and as a result of the diminished wheat crop, the amount of straw has also been greatly reduced. The overall amount and quality were hurt by the freeze and many people are actively looking for straw to purchase, Lee said.


Chad Lee, 859-257-3203