Kansas Drought Leads to Shorter Wheat: KSU Specialist Recommends Harvest Modifications for Efficiency and Future Crop Benefits

By Trish Svoboda

The drought that has been affecting parts of Kansas has resulted in shorter wheat plants and less dense crop stands this year. Romulo Lollato, a wheat production specialist at Kansas State University, is recommending that farmers make necessary modifications during the harvest season.

Lollato said that this year, the biggest cause for short wheat has been drought stress. He explained that during the springtime, the crop starts to go through a phase called stem elongation- which is when the plants’ height is determined. Areas with virtually no moisture caused the plants to be short. Due to irregular rain patterns, noticeable height differences can be seen in fields across counties.

Lollato suggests that farmers can attach stripper headers to their combines to efficiently harvest shorter wheat plants. These stripper headers are designed to separate the grain head from the rest of the plant, unlike traditional headers which cut the plants halfway down their stems.

If a farmer opts for a stripper header this year, it could potentially benefit future crops as well. Planting directly into crop residue provides benefits such as added moisture, weed control, and erosion reduction.

Those unable to invest in a stripper header can still use conventional headers, however, there may be more challenges, especially on sloped land. Draper and flex heads may also be used for harvesting poorer-quality wheat stands.

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