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Published: Tuesday, 7/6/2004

Area wheat farmers start plentiful harvest early

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Fred Speck cuts a wheat field in Middleton Township in Wood County. Northwest Ohio's crop kept grain elevators open through the holiday weekend. Fred Speck cuts a wheat field in Middleton Township in Wood County. Northwest Ohio's crop kept grain elevators open through the holiday weekend.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

Farmers spent Independence Day weekend harvesting wheat in much of northwest Ohio, bringing the crop in a few days earlier than usual and keeping many grain elevators open throughout the holiday weekend.

Fields are yielding well, although not quite as good as last year's bumper crop, in areas where rainfall was fairly moderate.

But in areas where rainfall was especially heavy, farmers are worrying about diseases.

Good-quality wheat from this area typically is milled into flour for pastries and cookies at Mennel Milling Co. in Fostoria, Nabisco Inc., and White Lily Foods Co. in Tennessee. Wheat damaged by disease typically is fed to poultry and other livestock.

Wheat prices, which farmers had long considered far too low, have been much higher the past few years. Farmers across the country devoted far more acres to wheat last season than they had for years, but less was planted this year.

Ohio is expected to harvest wheat on 880,000 acres, down from 1 million last summer. Michigan is expected to harvest 610,000 acres, down from 660,000 last summer.

Soil scientists say farm fields benefit from being planted to wheat every few years instead of producing only corn and soybeans, which are Ohio's largest crops.

Many area farmers leave the wheat stems, called straw, on the field as fertilizer. But Chuck Engelman, who farms northeast of Pemberville, predicted a few more farmers might bale and sell straw this year.

"Because times are rough they're out for every buck they can get," he said.

A few more farmers than usual might plant late soybeans on the fields where they harvested wheat. Typically, 5 to 10 percent of local wheat fields are "double cropped" to soybeans, experts say.

With a late frost, such soybeans can yield as much as 75 percent of beans planted in the spring. But a very early frost can leave such late beans with practically no yield.

Wheat harvest often lasts only about 10 days for country elevators drawing from small areas, but can last for several weeks elsewhere.

At Blanchard Valley Farmers Co-Op Inc., grain buyer Brice Berry predicted harvest, which started Wednesday around the group's elevator west of Findlay, would be done by the end of this week.

But at the Gerald Grain Center Inc. branch north of Wauseon, manager Jerry Short said surrounding farmers had been rained out of the fields over the weekend and would need a week to 10 days to finish.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6102.



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