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Wheat Tour Estimates 34.7 Bushels an Acre; Worst Day-One Average in More Than a Decade

Bill Spiegel Updated: 04/30/2014 @ 5:35pm I grew up in north-central Kansas, and am the Fourth Generation to maintain and manage our farm on which we grow wheat, soybeans and grain sorghum. I'm a 1993 graduate of Kansas State University in ag communications. I joined the Successful Farming/Agriculture.com team in 2014.

July wheat futures rose 16 cents Tuesday, in part due to rumblings from day one of the Hard Winter Wheat Tour through northern Kansas. Tour participants estimated the yield from 271 field stops in north-central and northwest Kansas to be just 34.7 bushels per acre, about 9 bushels per acre less than was estimated on the tour a year ago, and the worst day one total in more than a decade.

Poor wheat abounds, particularly in western Kansas, where stands are spotty and the crop is extremely short. Statewide, the crop is about two weeks behind normal schedule; very few fields had even headed out. Almost every region of the state is bothered by a lack of “tillers;” secondary plants that oftentimes head out and boost yields. The field stop with the lowest yield estimate was 16 bushels per acre.

 The day’s high estimate was 64 bushels per acre, so there is good wheat to be found:  

  • A field in Washington County checked in at 53 bushels per acre, which was the high point for the carload of participants driven by Dalton Henry, director of governmental affairs for the trade group Kansas Wheat.

  • Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin says the best field on his route was the first stop out of Manhattan; yields slid from there to western Kansas. His car average ranged from the low 20s to low 50s, averaging 37 bushels per acre – 10 bushels less than the same route last year.

  • Daryl Strouts, president of the Kansas Wheat Alliance, says the best wheat for his car was near the Hays area in north central/northwest Kansas. With average rainfall from here on out, the crop in that region could make 40 bushels per acre.

Many of the wheat fields look deceiving. “We pulled into fields that looked good enough to yield 60 or 70 bushels per acre. Yet, the tiller counts are lower than expected,” Henry says.

The crop’s short stature is indicative of poor stand development last fall and dry conditions. “We haven’t seen anything over 16 to 17 inches tall, although by the time they get heads, the plants will be 20 inches tall or so,” Strouts says. “But in an average year, wheat will usually be about 30 inches tall, and we’re not even going to be close.”

Winterkill – thought to be a concern after freezing conditions two weeks ago – wasn’t a factor in northern Kansas, Gilpin says. “We saw some, but not as much as we expected. Perhaps the wheat was too young when the freeze occurred.”

Freeze damage will likely show up in days two and three of the tour in wheat that was more mature when the cold weather hit.  

There have been no sightings of disease or insects, although Gilpin said some fields are getting weed pressure due to rain events the last few weeks in fields with thin stands.   

See more from the Kansas Wheat Tour. You may follow the Wheat Tour on Twitter at #wheattour14.

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