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More than 90 people from 30 U.S. states and three other countries traveled on six routes between Manhattan and Colby, Kan., Tuesday, stopping at wheat fields every 15-20 miles along the routes.
Many tour participants had never stepped foot in a wheat field before and had only seen these Kansas plains from the window seat of passing airplane. These are the millers, bakers, food processors and traders who buy the wheat that Kansas farmers grow. If these fields make it to harvest, the resulting crop will go into breads, but also a number of other food items, from snack cakes to donuts to seasonings, batters and coatings for fish, chicken and appetizers.
Dan Dogs buys wheat for Kerry Inc., a company that focuses on taste and nutrition to give consumers the foods and beverages they enjoy and feel good about consuming. This is his first time on the tour. Flour millers who grind that wheat into flour for his products and food companies who are his customers are also on the tour. Some of the Kansas wheat he saw today will eventually end up in his food products, such as the breading for chicken strips or similar foods.
Every tour participant makes yield calculations at every stop based on three different area samplings per field. These individual estimates are averaged with the rest of their car mates, and eventually added to a formula that produces a final yield estimate for the areas along the routes. While yields tend to be the spotlight of the Wheat Quality Tour, the real benefit is the ability to network among the ‘grain chain.’ This tour gives Kansas farmers the chance to interact with and influence their customers around the globe, on the tour, as well as at the #wheattour18 hashtag.
Tuesday’s 24 cars of wheat tour scouts made 317 stops at wheat fields across north central, central and northwest Kansas, and into southern counties in Nebraska. The calculated yield from all cars was 38.2 bushels per acre, but at the Tuesday evening wrap-up meeting, tour scouts were quick to point out that likely this calculation is high. They attributed this to the fact that the wheat is about three weeks behind in development compared to normal years. Not only that, but the wheat is short, which will make harvesting it difficult. It’s dry out there, so without adequate moisture during the grain fill period, it will be hard-pressed to live up to tour calculated yields. Head size is determined right after dormancy. In the plants that were split open and examined, heads were small, which will negatively affect yields. Abandoned acres will likely be higher than normal, but how much depends on the next few weeks.
In addition, scouts from Nebraska and Colorado met the group in Colby, Kan., to give reports from their states. The estimate for the Nebraska wheat crop is 43.7 million bushels, down from 46.92 million bushels last year. The estimated yield average is 43 bushels per acre. In Colorado, the estimated yield was only 35 bushels per acre. Production in Colorado is estimated at 70 million bushels, down from 86.9 million bushels last year.
Wheat Tour 18 continues Wednesday with six routes between Colby and Wichita, Kan.