Kansas continues to speed toward an early wheat harvest in spite of cooler weather this week, with wheat beginning to turn gold across the southern part of the state.
"I'm thinking combines will definitely be rolling before the end of May the way things are going," said Jeff Winter, who farms north of Andale in Sedgwick County.
Winter said he is optimistic to see color variation in the field that tells him the crop is truly turning color and not simply reflecting drought stress, which has worsened over much of the central part of the state in the last 10 days.
"I'm worried where there seems to be more silver than gold," he said. "We're losing potential every day that goes by."
Farmers in south-central Kansas won't really know just how much potential was lost to serious disease issues earlier in the season and to drought in late grain fill until harvest. In other areas, the toll is already more apparent.
Just a few miles to the west and north, southern Barton County is already seeing severe drought stress that may have virtually wiped out an 80-bushel potential.
"I'm looking at 80-bushel straw and, hopefully, maybe 20 bushel wheat," said Barton County farmer Roger Brining. "There are some fields that are going to be zero bushel wheat."
Brining said many farmers in his region are regretted the expenditures made for additional inputs, such as second sprayings of herbicides and fungicide treatment back a few weeks ago when the crop had huge potential.
"I added almost $35 an acre in input costs looking at that 80-bushel potential," he said. "If I had been able to foresee what I have now, I wouldn't have spent that money."
Drought is becoming an increasing worry for much of Kansas, with 91 counties now either in drought watch or warning according to the latest report from the Kansas Water Office.
Brining said growing conditions have been ideal through the late winter and early spring, but that the crop in his area never had sufficient moisture profile to make it to harvest.
"We knew all along that we were betting on timely rains through the spring to see it make potential," he said. "We lost the bet."