Story by Jordan Hildebrand
Participants from all over the globe traveled to Kansas to participate in the HardRed Winter Wheat Quality Tour, sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council. Scouts traveled the state and experienced conditions ranging from ankle deep mud to bone dry fields. The tour hosted 92 participants in 21 vehicles traversing 6 routes, even venturing a smidge into Nebraska. The participants stopped at 284 locations, an increase from 271 last year.
Wet fields and rainy skies did not translate to better wheat conditions. This year’s Day 1 expected average yield of 34.3 was slightly lower than last year’s Day 1 average of 34.7, despite higher expectations. This is also the lowest Day 1 average since 2001 when scouts reported an average of 32.6 bushels per acre. Last year’s crop was ultimately the lowest Kansas harvest in 30 years totaling 246 million bushels.
Many of the scouts reported seeing similar issues statewide, which include drought stress (despite the rain and sludge during the tour), stripe rust, winter kill and pest infestations such as aphids.
“I think the rain made bad wheat look not quite as bad,” said Jim Shroyer, retired wheat extension specialist for K-State Research and Extension (KSRE). “This rain was easily worth millions of dollars for this year’s wheat crop.”
The expected yields reflect the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) Kansas Crop Progress and Condition report, rating just 27 percent good to excellent wheat.
“Our wheat’s really been through a lot this growing season,” said Jeanne Falk Jones, extension agent of the KSRE Sunflower District. “Variability is the name of the game right now.”
Farmers across the state are staying tuned for official tour statistics, but many in the Colby area attended the Day 1 meetings. David Schemm, a farmer from Sharon Springs and National Association of Wheat Growers Treasurer, mentioned that his wheat conditions were reflected in the issues discussed.
“The northern portion of the tour has me concerned because I straddle right on those route lines,” Schemm said. “But I predict that my crop will be better off than last year. It’ll still be below the five-year trend, but last year I averaged 30 bushels an acre and this year I am predicting 35-40 bushels an acre.”
Although the final projected day one yield was a surprise to many on the tour, experts say that conditions were still better than expected.
“Yield potential in eastern Kansas might have exceeded my expectation thanks to the rain,” said Shroyer. “But the wheat in western Kansas met my expectations, too, and not in a good way.”