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Winter Wheat Tour Kicks Off Tuesday

Wheat Quality Council's annual tour of Kansas winter wheat evaluates yield, quality.

The Wheat Quality Council's annual Winter Wheat Tour will depart from Manhattan, Kansas, Tuesday on a 2½-day tour of the state’s wheat crop. More than 80 folks will participate in this event, from which an estimate of the state’s wheat yield and quality will be ascertained.

The group is diverse, made up mostly of milling representatives, government officials, wheat seed companies, media, and other industry representatives. Attendees will divide up into 22 different cars and take one of six routes throughout the state, stopping at wheat fields every 20 to 30 miles. During the stops, each participant evaluates the wheat crop, measuring yield and looking for disease, insects, and freeze damage.

On Tuesday, Day 1 of the tour, cars will travel from Manhattan to Colby, Kansas. On Wednesday, Day 2, the routes traverse from Colby to Wichita. The tour concludes on Thursday, Day 3, with participants going from Wichita to Manhattan. At the tour’s conclusion on Thursday, participants will determine an average yield for the Kansas wheat crop and estimate the total production of the state’s wheat crop.

In fall 2015, Kansas farmers planted 8.5 million acres of wheat, 8% less than the previous year and the fewest since 1957.

The 2015-2016 Kansas wheat crop has been through its share of trials. Most of the crop was planted into decent moisture in the fall. However, the winter was mild and most of the state received much less precipitation than normal. Those two factors combined to bring the crop out of winter dormancy earlier than usual, and much of the state stayed dry. The crop was in precarious shape due to dryness until early April, when rains began falling. Meanwhile, three freeze events have touched much of the state’s wheat crop since March 19. The ill-effects – if any – of freeze are hard to identify, but tour participants will try.

Right now, the crop is in good shape. Plenty of moisture and mild temperatures have prevailed in Kansas the last few weeks. “Wheat is a cool-season grass. It likes cool, damp weather,” says Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations at Kansas Wheat. “From now until harvest, the weather is expected to result in below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation.”

That bodes well for the wheat crop and for wheat producers, says Romulo Lollato, Extension small grains and forage specialist at Kansas State University. “There are still many things that can happen, but moisture gives us excellent yield potential,” he says.

In the May 2 Crop Progress Report from National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Kansas wheat crop is rated as 52% good to excellent. Ninety-seven percent of the crop has jointed (ahead of 79%, on average) and 49% of the crop has headed (ahead of 28%, on average).

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