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Wheat Harvest Starts Early for Berg Farm

Article by Dan Grant, Farm Week Now

Gary Berg, a St. Elmo farmer and Fayette County Farm Bureau member, wrapped up wheat harvest a little early this year.

He and his son, Jason, put the last of their wheat crop into on-farm storage Tuesday, two days before the official start of summer.

And while a good portion of wheat yields and test weights were down in southern Illinois from records last year, Berg hopes the early harvest benefits double-crop beans, which in some cases are planted right behind the combine.

“As soon as we get done (with wheat harvest), we’re going to start planting beans,” Berg said from his combine cab as he cut the final 15 acres of wheat. “If we can get the beans planted (soon), it will be pretty timely this year.

Test weights in Gary Berg’s area have ranged from 49 to 58 pounds per bushel, below typical readings, which has resulted in docks from local mills.
(Test weights in Gary Berg’s area have ranged from 49 to 58 pounds per bushel, below typical readings, which has resulted in docks from local mills)
“Our wheat yields are down a little this year,” he continued. “But because we’re harvesting earlier, hopefully that helps a little bit on the double-crop beans." About a month to six weeks ago, Berg believed his wheat crop was set up for record yields.But the combination of extreme heat and dryness since late May took the top end off yields and lowered expectations.

Related: Southern Illinois wheat yields disappointing so far. Read more here.

The Bergs store all their wheat on the farm, but reported test weights in the area this season ran between 49 to 58 pounds per bushel, resulting in docks for farmers who deliver it to local mills. Typical test weights are closer to 60 pounds.

“It (the combination of heat and dryness) definitely hurt. It ripened the wheat faster than it should have,” Berg said. “We were pretty sure we’d be harvesting sooner than we should be because of the extreme heat and dryness in May.”

The Bergs’ wheat still averaged between 70 and 80-plus bushels per acre this season.

“Our wheat will probably end up fairly close to average,” he said. “But we’re a little disappointed. We were set up for the best wheat we’ve ever raised, I think.”

Berg, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat, has farmed his whole life and currently runs the operation with his son, Jason, and brother, Larry. Jason also works as a crop adjuster for COUNTRY Financial.

Gary, meanwhile, serves on the United Soybean Board and also served on the Illinois Soybean Association and Illinois Wheat Association boards.

He recently returned from a poultry meeting in Costa Rica the night before he started wheat harvest.

“The good news from that meeting is so far this year we’ve had a record amount of poultry exports,” Berg noted. “It’s great when we ship a lot of beans, but it’s the best of all worlds when we can raise poultry and pork in the U.S. and have a lot of world markets to ship that meat to, in the form of corn and soybeans.”

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