Wheat Tour Day 1: 41 to 51 bushels per acre

A virtual wheat tour of Kansas Hard Winter wheat fields shows lots of variability.

Most years, several carloads of wheat industry people would have toured Kansas wheat fields by now, taking yield estimates in random fields and wrapping up the first day of the Wheat Quality Council Hard Winter Wheat Tour in Colby, Kansas. 

2020 is not a normal year. 

Instead of the WQC Tour, which was canceled due to COVID-19, Kansas Wheat is hosting a virtual tour of the state’s crop, with Day 1 of the tour covering North Central and Northwest Kansas. 

Random yield checks in this part of the state show wide variability in crop conditions, ranging from very good to excellent wheat in north central Kansas, to poor wheat in northwest Kansas. 

Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations at Kansas Wheat, says the yield range in north central Kansas is 25.6 to 59.4 bushels per acre, with a 31.1 bushel per acre average; in northwest Kansas, the range is 20.0 to 117.7 bushels per acre, with a 51.7 bushel per acre average. 

These yield estimates are a “snapshot in time,” Harries says, and assumes normal growing conditions from now to harvest.

The USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service last week pegged the Kansas statewide yield average at 47 bushels per acre. 

The tour also featured updates from Nebraska and Colorado. Both states have variable wheat yield prospects. 

  • Nebraska: Royce Schenaman, executive director of Nebraska Wheat, says input from farmers and crop consultants indicates the state could have a 42.075 million bushel wheat crop, averaging 50.88 bushels per acre on 920,000 acres planted. USDA pegged the state at 41.7 million bushels. 
  • Colorado: Drought has hampered the southern counties in Colorado, sapping yield potential. Based on farmer input and visual observation, Brad Erker, executive director of Colorado Wheat, says the state’s farmers will produce 54.2 million bushels, or roughly 34 bushels per acre. 

Within Kansas, Extension wheat specialist Romulo Lollato says drought has likely caused more damage than frost. Yet, most fields in northern Kansas showed signs of both. “That’s the most consistent thing we saw, field after field of drought and freeze,” he says. 

In northwest Kansas, area agronomist Jeanne Falk Jones says “we have some excellent wheat and we have some poor wheat. Variability is the word.”

Widespread disease and insect pressure has been largely absent from this year's winter wheat crop. However, stripe rust is moving northward, nearing the Nebraska border. Lollato says in many cases, lower leaves of wheat plants are affected by the yield-robbing disease. Still, farmers are urged to scout fields and apply fungicide if necessary. 

More than 160 people listened on the virtual meeting. 

Day 2 of the virtual tour will occur Wednesday, with field reports from western to south central Kansas. 

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