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328107

Crop tour projects sub-par N.Kansas wheat yield after drought

By Julie Ingwersen

COLBY, Kansas, May 17 (Reuters) - Crop scouts on the first day of an annual three-day tour of Kansas projected an average yield for hard red winter wheat in the northern portion of the drought-hit state at 39.5 bushels per acre, down from 59.2 bushels in 2021.

The Wheat Quality Council tour's five-year average for the same area from 2016-2021 was 46.9 bushels per acre. No tour was held in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Crop conditions in the top U.S. winter wheat producing state have been closely watched as the world scrambles to replace wheat supplies impacted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Tour scouts sampled 248 fields on Tuesday between Manhattan and Colby, Kansas. Much of the wheat was shorter than normal, and plant populations were sparse in the driest fields.

"We don't seem to be catching (rains) and it feels like the crop is on a knife-edge, just hanging on," said Jeanne Falk Jones, a Kansas State University extension agronomist based in Colby, Kansas.

Rains did cross parts of central Kansas on Tuesday night that could help maintain yield potential.

"By having rain at this stage, we are preserving what we've got out there in the field, but we're not going to be making any more kernels," Falk Jones said.

Any moisture at this point might arrive too late for crops farther south, along the state's border with Oklahoma. The tour will cross southern Kansas on Wednesday, including some of the driest areas in southwestern portions of the state.

The tour is scheduled to release a final Kansas yield forecast on Thursday.

DROUGHT HITS COLORADO WHEAT

Brad Erker, executive director of Colorado Wheat, a state wheat promotion group, addressed the Wheat Quality Council tour on Tuesday and projected Colorado's drought-hit 2022 wheat crop at 40.1 million bushels with a yield of 28.6 bushels per acre.

The figure is well below U.S. Department of Agriculture's May 12 forecast for a 49.6 million-bushel Colorado crop.

Nebraska's wheat crop should total 36.9 million bushels based on observations by the Nebraska Wheat Board, board member Kent Lorens told the Kansas tour scouts. The USDA last week also projected Nebraska's crop at 36.9 million bushels. (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen in Colby, Kansas; Editing by Tom Hogue and Lincoln Feast.)

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