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Yields tank as wheat tour rolls on

Jeff Caldwell 05/02/2013 @ 10:48am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The Kansas Winter Wheat Tour spent much of its second day Wednesday in the western quarter of the state where tour members saw some of the worst wheat they're likely to see on this year's trip.

Based on a total of 264 field stops among all tour members, officials with Kansas Wheat said the area covered on Wednesday's tour leg -- stretching south into the southwest corner of the state, then east to Wichita -- will see an average yield of 37.1 bushels per acre. Combined with Tuesday's total potential yield tally of 43.8 bushels an acre, it's well off from last year's two-day total estimate of 48.5 bushels per acre, according to Kansas Wheat marketing director Aaron Harries.

"After near-perfect weather for Day One’s tour, participants were rudely greeted by this morning’s conditions in Colby: cold, 40-mph winds, and mist, setting the tone for what would be a largely dismal Day Two," Harries says. "The wheat crop in western Kansas -- largely from Hwy 283 west -- is abysmal. A majority of the fields will yield in the single digits; many will not even  be harvested. Irrigated wheat could yield in the 30s at best; a far cry from the normal 70 to 80 bushels per acre in a normal year."

There were a lot of fields toured on Wednesday that will yield fewer than 10 bushels per acre, with some that will be all but zeroed out and abandoned, Harries says. Though there were still fields farther east found to have yield potential up in the 50- to 70-bushel-per-acre range, the crop (at least in the western third of the state) has simply faced too many challenges from Mother Nature in the last two years.

"Drought is the main culprit of the sorry state of this crop. The sprinkles that fell today did nothing to alleviate the long-term drought conditions. Near Winona, in Logan County (northwest Kansas), one farmer has had just 6 inches of precipitation the last two years combined!" Harries says. "Late-season freeze didn’t help the wheat either, and it’s not over yet: Freeze is in the forecast for Thursday night and Friday morning."

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