November 1, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

Autumn rains and cool temperatures are making the soybean harvest and winter wheat planting particularly challenging for Kentucky's farmers.
“These guys are really ready to get this fall behind them,” said Clint Hardy, Daviess County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Despite exceptionally good planting and growing conditions earlier in the year, the weather turned against farmers in September with heavy rains that flooded a number of crop fields. October’s weather also seemed to work against farmers, slowing the soybean harvest to a crawl. September was the second wettest on record in Kentucky, said Erik Kabela, UK agricultural meteorologist. October has also been a wet one ranking as the 11th wettest as of last week.

There’s still a tremendous amount of soybeans left to be harvested, said Jim Herbek, UK Extension grain crops specialist. The longer the crop remains in the field the more likely the beans are to lose quality and to shatter from the pods, causing some yield loss.

The optimum time to plant wheat in Kentucky is from Oct. 1 to Oct. 30, Herbek said. With some exceptions, late-planted wheat will produce less fall tillers, which can lower yield potential. The plants are also more susceptible to heaving from the ground during freezing and thawing because of minimal root growth.

“We’ve still got a lot of late-planted soybeans to harvest,” Hardy said. “Everybody slowed on beans and switched to planting wheat right at the first of October and managed to get about two weeks to plant. We still have about 15 to 20 percent of the wheat that farmers intend to plant, yet to be planted.”

Farmers now are concentrating on getting their soybeans out of the field and if the weather cooperates will plant additional wheat, he said. Not all the beans will be harvested.

In Daviess County about 6,000 to 7,000 acres of soybeans were flooded by the September storm and 2,000 to 4,000 acres of those may be too damaged for harvest. Other western Kentucky counties also sustained flooding losses due to the heavy rains of late September
In Christian County, farmers are farther behind on harvesting soybeans than anything else, said Jay Stone, the county’s Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. When farmers finished their corn harvest, soybeans weren’t ready for harvest so most producers began planting wheat. Christian County is among the top wheat-producing counties in Kentucky.

“A lot of guys started in the third week of September planting wheat, which I don’t recommend, but it’s an added risk you take when you have a lot of acres,” Stone said. “We’re probably 85 to 90 percent done.”

Planting wheat too early can lead to increased insect and disease problems, and too much fall growth that can sustain winter and spring freeze damage, Herbek said.

Farmers will likely push their wheat planting into the middle of November, if they can get the weather to cooperate, Stone said. And farmers there are accustomed to harvesting into late November. But the farther into the fall it gets, the more likely moisture from dews or fogs are going to limit the hours for soybean harvest. 

“We’re certainly not in any dire straights yet,” he said.


Clint Hardy, 270-685-8480, Jim Herbek, 270-365-7541, ext. 205, Jay Stone, 270-886-6328