By Jordan Hildebrand
The 2015 Hard Red Winter Wheat Tour was full of surprises for participants and led to a sliver of hope for producers statewide. On day three, the participants stopped at 70 fields, an increase from last year’s day three total of 45 fields. The daily average was 48.9 bushels an acre, more than an 11 bushel increase from last year.
The official tour projection for total production numbers of hard red winter wheat to be harvested in Kansas is 288.5 million bushels. This number is calculated based on the average of estimated predictions from tour participants who gathered information from 659 fields across the state.
“After these three days on the road, I think that number is pretty accurate,” said Daryl Strouts, president of the Kansas Wheat Alliance. “My official projection was not far off. I was hoping that the number would be a little bigger, but I think there is some potential in this crop.”
While he remained coy about his predicted number, Strouts emphasized that this year is looking more promising than last year’s crop in the majority of the state.
“The main takeaway for producers is that the crop is better than last year,” Strouts said. “Now we have moisture, so it’s important to protect that yield. The numbers from today confirm that there is yield potential, so if producers haven’t taken measures to protect that, they should start considering it soon.”
One of the most common factors from all of the six routes was the presence of stripe rust. The disease was found in many fields across the state.
“The stripe rust found was concerning to us,” said Aaron Harries. “There were signs of it present in nearly every field we visited, especially in the central corridors of the state. In some fields the disease had even spread to the flag leaf, which can lead to yield loss.”
Other issues found statewide throughout the tour were drought stress (despite the rain and sludge during the tour), wheat streak mosaic virus, barley yellow dwarf virus, winter kill and pest infestations such as aphids.
Even with these issues, the 288.5 million bushel projection is a relief for many in the wheat industry. This is an improvement from last year’s Wheat Tour prediction of 260 million bushels and actual production of 246.4 million bushels. The 2014 wheat crop suffered from severe drought stress due to lack of moisture throughout the growth stages and an overabundance of it during harvesting time. Many attribute recent rains to be worth millions of dollars for this year’s crop.
“What is different about this year is this last minute moisture,” Harries said. “It will be an asset to the wheat during grain fill.”
The sudden influx of moisture and extreme weather was exciting for scouts on the tour. After witnessing flooding in Manhattan on Monday, wading through ankle deep mud and seeing a tornado on Tuesday (possibly a first for the Wheat Tour), participants are quietly optimistic that the wild weather may ultimately make a difference for the wheat they evaluated along the tour.
The Hard Red Winter Wheat tour is sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council. This year’s tour hosted 92 participants from across the globe in 21 vehicles while traveling across the state on six routes. For more information about what participants saw statewide, check out #wheattour15 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.