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Wheat Tour Participants ‘Pencil in Closer to 40 Bushels Than 46 Bushels’

If you go by what participants on the Kansas Wheat Tour measured in fields in the past three days, the state’s hard-red winter wheat crop looks pretty normal, but judging by expected abandonment and lower yields due to weather and disease, that’s likely to not be the case.

Farmers, analyst, agronomists, and other market-watchers, using measurements from the fields that were scouted, estimated yield at 46.1 bushels an acre, said Dave Green, the executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council, which hosted the event. Considering 7.5 million acres were forecast to be planted by the Department of Agriculture, minus “normal” abandonment, and it works out to be about 346 million bushels.

The tour participants didn’t agree, instead pegging the crop at 281.7 million bushels due to increased abandonment expectations due to a snowstorm that broke stems and buried headed crops and disease issues before that, Green said.

“People were more pessimistic than the (calculated) numbers indicated,” he said. “The snow, and not being able to look at the fields, and the feeling that there’s some damage out there. People are penciling in closer to 40 bushels than 46 bushels.”

The Kansas tour was more closely watched this year than most because of the small amount of wheat planted in the U.S.

U.S. growers 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.

Tanner Ehmke, the senior economist for grains at CoBank in Denver and a tour participant, said this year’s crop suffered greatly because of disease, then got hit by the snowstorm last weekend. The combination of those factors, along with smaller planting numbers, likely means production and yields will be well below normal.

“This is a year like no other in terms of what we saw, especially out west,” he said. “Before the snow, we had some problems with disease. I’ve never seen wheat streak mosaic like that in my life. It was quite shocking.”

Then the blizzard came last weekend, dumping up to 2 feet of snow in some parts of Kanas and burying plants that had headed. Agronomists are saying it’ll be two weeks before the damage is fully assessed, but Ehmke said it’s apparent that there was a lot of damage done.

“There’s going to be a lot of abandonment between the disease and the (snow),” he said.

The only upside is that farmers may be able to work through some of the stockpiles in storage both on- and off-farm. Some growers, mostly those in the central part of the state where the disease and snow wasn’t as bad, likely will see good yields and be able to capitalize.

Rainfall for much of the growing season also helped those fields and as long as it doesn’t keep raining through harvest, it’s likely producers in central Kansas counties will be the winners this year.

“Rain makes grain, and we’ve had a lot of rain,” Ehmke said. “People are realizing there are big yields in central Kansas, and that may make up for a lot of the reduction in western Kansas.”

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