Purchase photos

Hail makes quick work of wheat





HARGRAVE -- Even in the face of severe drought, Scott Littler continued to hold out hope about this year's wheat crop.

That all changed for many of the Rush County fields he farms on the virtual eve of the start of the harvest.

And while he's grateful for the more than an inch of moisture falling with the hail, the storm also battered a stand of milo adjacent to a field of wheat.

Littler wasn't alone in losing an already damaged crop, as the swath of hail swept from near Yocemento south to Hargrave, a strip nearly 30 miles long.

Hargrave, along Kansas Highway 4 between La Crosse and McCracken, is little more than a branch elevator for Hays-based Midland Marketing. Even the elevator's only open during harvest, just now starting in reaches of Ellis, Russell and Rush counties.

It's unclear how wide the strip of hail was, but fields in its path sustained damage ranging from minor to complete losses.

Littler's field was among those mowed down by the hail.

"They said it wasn't very big, but there was a lot of wind with it," he said, standing outside his shop. "And that's what mows wheat."

Littler's farm and many surrounding him have been in a pocket of severe drought, unable to get enough to grow much of anything. Pastures are struggling as well; while there's still a hint of green in them, there's little for cattle to eat.

Farmers already are talking about selling part of their herd after the harvest is over.

"I'm an optimistic guy," Littler said of his hopes for the coming harvest.

While summer fallowed land likely will struggle the most, he had hopes some fields would have yields of 40 bushels per acre.

Littler had plans to venture out into the harvest field Friday, and a few in the area did so despite the recent rains.

Ironically, all of the fields he'd slated for the custom cutter he hires were hit by the hail.

"That's the way it goes," he said matter-of-factly. "You always hear about the bad. Nobody talks about the good."

And there have been good times in farming, he said, with high prices and, in some cases, good crops.

"The wheat we do have," he said, "you wonder how that ever happened. I guess I'm looking on the bright side. We'll know what we got within a week."