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Wheat Tour Day 2: 49.3 Bushels Per Acre

Western, Southern Kansas wheat crop posts highest Wheat Tour total in more than 8 years.

Day 2 of the Wheat Quality Council’s Winter Wheat Tour is in the books, and the wheat crop in western and southern Kansas looks as promising as that in the state’s northern region. In a word, the day’s findings are “Outstanding,” says Aaron Harries, director of operations and research for the trade group, Kansas Wheat.

The Day 2 average, at 49.2 bushels per acre from 300 stops, is much better than last year’s 34.4-bushel-per-acre average and the eight-year average of 39.6 bushels per acre. It’s also the largest Day 2 averaged in at least eight years.

The tour is intended to give a snapshot of the wheat crop’s yield potential at this moment.

Right now, the snapshot is picture perfect. Yields ranging from 20 to 100 bushels per acre were noted on Day 2, which took circuitous routes from Colby to Wichita. “One rider in our car says he’s never seen the Kansas wheat crop look so consistently good as this year‘s crop,” notes Harries.

“Honestly, this wheat makes me proud to be a farmer, because the wheat looks really good,” says Gary Millershaski, a farmer from Lakin who also serves on the Kansas Wheat Commission. Millershaski is one of 20 drivers on this year’s tour. “The crop just looks beautiful.”

The best wheat was in northwest Kansas, with yield potential between 40 to 60 bushels per acre, although all the counties along the Colorado border appear to be above average, says Romulo Lollato, forage and small grains specialist at Kansas State University and another of the tour’s drivers.

“I was really surprised at what we saw in northwest Kansas,” he says. “If all goes well, there is very high yield potential here.”

If that region is surprising for high-yield potential, southwest Kansas is surprising for its low-yield potential. Wheat in the southern part of the state looks average, but in the Arkansas River Valley from Syracuse to Dodge City, drought hit the area hard. While late-season rains gave some relief, the Valley’s sandy soils couldn’t hold the moisture. “We’re seeing the effects of drought, with aborted tillers and leaves being sloughed off,” Lollato notes.

From Garden City to Kingman on Highway 400, Millershaski and Lollato agree that yield potential is better than most years, although there is some late-season disease pressure.

“We saw a lot of disease pressure from barley yellow dwarf, stripe rust, and loose smut,” Millershaski says. Some fields were sprayed with a fungicide; others weren’t. Occasionally, it looked as if the fungicide’s effectiveness was breaking in some of the treated fields. It should be noted, however, that the same weather conditions that bring on disease also typically result in excellent yield potential.

In Kansas’ extreme southern counties, the crop simply looked consistently good, with yield potential ranging mostly from 40 to 60 bushels per acre, Harries says. The crop is beginning to turn color in the Wichita area, with kernels getting to the milky stage. That’s much earlier than normal, and it could result in harvest in less than three weeks.

Historically, if Day 1’s wheat yield potential is good, the Day 2 routes are just as poor. In 2016, however, fields along the Day 2 routes are loaded with potential.  “At this point in time, I think we’re heading for some high yields in 2016,” Lollato says.

On the day, Kansas City wheat futures prices closed 2¢ higher.

The tour concludes Wednesday, with routes from Wichita to Manhattan. Results should be posted by noon.

Follow along on Twitter at #wheattour16.

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