Spring Wheat in Kansas May Face Production, Marketing Challenges

$20 wheat has tempted some Kansas farmers.

Spring wheat prices that soared to the $20 per bushel area recently have raised questions about whether this crop can be successfully grown in Kansas.

The problem with either spring or winter wheat planted in the spring is that the weather almost always turns hot and dry in Kansas by the time this wheat is filling grain, says Jim Shroyer, K-State Research and Extension crop production specialist.

"That results in low test weight, shriveled grain, and low yields for any spring-planted wheat in Kansas, including hard red spring wheat. Protein quality of spring wheat grown in Kansas may also be less than the protein quality of spring wheat grown in the Northern Plains," Shroyer says.

If producers do want to grow spring wheat, they should choose a variety with early maturity, he added. Resistance to leaf diseases would also be important.

Producers should be aware that spring wheat will typically mature a week or two later than winter wheat in Kansas, he says. This may affect harvesting decisions.

"If spring wheat is used to thicken a poor stand of winter wheat, the winter wheat will mature first and may start to shatter before the spring wheat is ready to harvest. It is also important to keep spring wheat and winter wheat separate, unless the wheat will be used as livestock feed. If the two classes are mixed, the wheat will be discounted heavily. The best approach would be to plant spring wheat on a whole-field basis, not interspersed with winter wheat in the same field," the K-State wheat specialist advises.

Marketing spring wheat in Kansas also may be difficult. Local markets are hard to find, Shroyer adds.

"If the spring wheat is shipped directly from the farm to northern locations, the normally low quality of spring wheat produced in Kansas may result in lower prices than producers expect. Low test weight and poor protein quality are two of the major concerns," he says. "To think that hard red spring wheat grown in Kansas will bring the kind of high prices currently posted on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange is not realistic."

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