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Kansas Wheat Tour Takes Off

Bill Spiegel 04/29/2014 @ 8:09am I grew up in north-central Kansas, and am the Fourth Generation to maintain and manage our farm; we grow wheat, soybeans and grain sorghum. I'm a 1993 graduate of Kansas State University in ag communications.

Nearly 70 wheat millers, buyers, exporters, USDA employees, farmers and journalists have begun the annual three-day tour across Kansas wheat fields, sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council.

The Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour will spot-check some 400 fields throughout the state from April 29-May 1, estimating yield of those fields, and identifying agronomic challenges that could impact the crop between now and harvest.

This year’s tour departs from Manhattan and heads to Colby on Day 1, Wichita on Day 2 and Kansas City on Day 3 when the official tour findings will be reported.

“The purpose of the Winter Wheat Tour is to provide interaction from all segments of agribusiness, plus define Kansas crop prospects and harvest projections,” says Dave Green, director of technical services for ADM Milling in Overland Park, Kansas. “The tour also provides exposure to U.S. agriculture in general, and Kansas in particular.”

The Brazilian wheat import and milling market is well-represented at this year’s tour, says Justin Gilpin, chief executive officer of the Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas Association of Wheat Growers. According to U.S. Wheat Associates, Brazil has imported 3.9 million metric tons (153 million bushels) of Hard Red Winter wheat in the 2014 marketing year, third highest of all importing countries. Industry representatives are excited to see the variability and condition of the Kansas wheat crop.



Rollie Sears, senior science and technology fellow at Syngenta, told Kansas Wheat Tour participants that the Kansas crop will be hampered by drought and winterkill. The tour runs April 29-May 1.


The Brazilian team is joined by several folks who have little previous exposure to wheat fields. Inexperienced participants are paired up with experienced folks and received a crash course in wheat yield estimation from Jason Lamprecht, head statistician at Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service. Participants will fill 20 cars, each taking one of four pre-determined routes across the state.

Gilpin says participants will see great variability in the Kansas wheat crop. Central Kansas has good wheat from south to north, but the western third of the state has been plagued by long-term drought and wind.

“This year’s Kansas wheat crop is about two weeks behind schedule. It is short in height, and I expect we will see some winterkill from our freezing temperatures a few weeks ago,” he says. Kansas farmers planted about 9.3 million acres of winter wheat last fall.

However, this time of the year “wheat is as tough and resilient as it is ever going to be,” says Rollie Sears, senior science and technology fellow for Syngenta and longtime wheat breeder in the state of Kansas.

Some of the tour participants will see fields in southern Nebraska on Day 1, and northern Oklahoma on Day 2.

Royce Schaneman, executive director of the Nebraska Wheat Board, says that state’s crop also is behind schedule, and has benefitted from rain the last few weeks. Growers planted 1.4 million acres of winter wheat last fall in Nebraska. He considers the crop to be average overall.

Mark Hodges, executive director of the multi-state wheat quality organization Plains Grains, Inc., says the wheat in western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle is in precarious shape. “This is one of the worst years I’ve ever seen,” says Hodges, who works from Stillwater, Oklahoma. “In northwest Oklahoma there already has been much of the crop released by crop insurance.” He estimates Oklahoma wheat farmers will be hard-pressed to harvest just 80 million bushels of wheat, well off the normal pace of 105 million bushels. The state’s farmers planted 5.3 million acres of wheat last fall.

In the April 28 Crop Progress Report from NASS, the Kansas wheat crop is rated 21% good to excellent and 37% poor to very poor; Oklahoma’s wheat crop is rated at 9% good to excellent and 65% poor to very poor and Nebraska’s is rated 56% good to excellent and 14% poor to very poor.

You may follow the Wheat Tour on Twitter at #wheattour14.

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