Grain trucks outnumbered other traffic 5 to 1 on Kansas Hwy. 49 north of Conway Springs on hot, dusty Memorial Day afternoon, testimony to the fact that wheat harvest trumps holiday celebration every time.
Farmers Co-op Grain Association at Conway Springs is one of the busiest elevators in busy Sumner County, year in and year out the top wheat producing county in the nation. Even last year's relatively poor, drought-hampered harvest in Sumner County topped 10 million bushels.
At the peak of harvest, the two branch locations in Conway Springs move out about 50 to 55 rail cars every day. On Memorial Day, the logistics of that were also visible on Hwy. 49, where traffic backed up as slow-moving trains pushed and pulled cars into position for loading at both branches.
At the elevators workers were loading rail cars on one side while trucks were dumping wheat on the other side, a sure sign that managers expect the pace to pick up to hectic for the rest of this week and into next.
With no rain in the forecast, highs pushing 100 degrees and winds averaging 20 to 30 mph for much of last week, wheat ripened at a rapid pace. On Monday, the winds had died down, but temperatures were still in the 90s and the sun blazed for a clear, blue sky.
Harvest crews in Sumner County said this year's harvest is looking better than last year's -- in some fields, much better, in spite of losses to rust and late-season drought stress. Early harvested fields were averaging 55 to 60 bushels per acre with test weights above 60 pounds and moisture around 12%.