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Snowy Fields Make for ‘Difficult’ First Day of Kansas Wheat Tour

Tour Participants Find No Consensus on Snow Damage to Kansas Crop

It was a “difficult” first day of the 2017 Kansas Hard-Red Winter Wheat Tour as snow and muddy fields made it difficult to assess the wheat in north-central Kansas.

More than 70 participants on the tour left Manhattan, Kansas, this morning and hit 222 fields as they meandered through Kansas wheat country. The first-day average for the region was pegged at about 43 bushels an acre, well below the first-day average of 47.1 bushels an acre last year, said Dave Green, the executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council.

Farmers, financial analysts, agronomists, and other interested parties saw fields that were covered in snow from a weekend storm and in Colby, Kansas, where the tour ended for the day, several drifts still lined the highways after as much as 22 inches fell on Sunday and power-line crews worked to fix downed poles, Green said.

While the snow, which was wet and heavy, likely damaged thousands of acres of hard-red winter wheat, leftover moisture could benefit recovering wheat fields, he said.

“The crop looked really good,” Green told Successful Farming. “I think (the tour estimate) is low. It’s in mud everywhere, so if it doesn’t rain between now and harvest, they have enough (moisture) to make the crop. It’s an unusually wet situation. The crop looks like it has big stands everywhere.”

The wet conditions, however, left growers and other tour participants wondering how much damage had been done, and what will happen if it keeps raining. Those on the tour couldn’t come to a consensus on what the snow will mean for yields, and it’s unlikely they’ll know for at least a couple of weeks.

The health of the crop is of special interest this year due to the lack of planting. U.S. growers as a whole were forecast to plant 46.1 million acres of the grain, down 8% from the prior year and the least since the start of record keeping in 1919, according to the Department of Agriculture. Winter-wheat acres are projected at the lowest since 1909.

Hard-red winter acres were seen at 23.8 million acres, down 9% year-over-year, and Kansas acreage was pegged at 7.5 million, down 12% from the prior year, according to the USDA.

The tour moves on Wednesday as vans and other vehicles roll from Colby to Wichita, Kansas, this time winding through western and southwestern Kansas, the heart of hard-red country. Scouts should expect to see worsening conditions as more plants were headed in southern counties and in Oklahoma.

“I don’t know if it’s going to look any better” in southern parts of the state, Green said. “The wheat up north has a better chance than in the south because it wasn’t pollinating, so we’re worried we’ll see more damage.”

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