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Wheat Tour Wrap: 39.7 bushels per acre

If realized, Kansas crop would be lowest since 2014.

The 2022 Kansas wheat crop is projected to average 39.7 bushels per acre – down 19 bushels per acre from 2021. The 261-million-bushel total wheat crop estimate from the nation’s largest winter wheat-producing state is less than the 271 million bushels USDA projected in May and if realized, would be the lowest since 2014, when Kansas farmers grew 246.4 million bushels from 8.8 million harvested acres.

It’s also the lowest projection from the Wheat Quality Council’s annual Hard Winter Wheat Tour of Kansas since 2018, when tour participants projected the crop to tally 38 bushels per acre.

The results, announced Thursday in Manhattan, Kansas, came after 84 participants totaled 550 field stops over six predetermined routes throughout the state.

The final day tour included 48 field stops between Wichita and Manhattan, and groups found yield potential in that region of between 22 and 113 bushels per acre.

The state’s wheat crop is a mix of good wheat mixed with bad, due to dry conditions in much of the western half going back to last fall’s planting. Wheat that was summer-fallowed tends to be in better condition than wheat that was planted right after harvest of a fall crop in 2021; the fall crops used moisture much later in the growing season, leaving little behind to get 2021-planted winter wheat established.

“Drought stress was pronounced on the northern route of the first day of the tour,” says Justin Gipin, chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat. “Short wheat and low tiller number and head count suggest downside to trend yields in that region.”

Day 2 saw better wheat in the south-central part of Kansas, with better-than-average wheat on Day 3, adds Romulo Lollato, Kansas State University wheat Extension specialist. 

“Our expectation was the conditions would continue to deteriorate as we moved toward the southwest part of the state," he says. “Maybe the biggest surprise was as we moved east, how long it took for conditions to improve. Those harsh conditions extended well into south-central Kansas.”

“The west part of south-central Kansas was more affected by the drought than we expected,” Lolloato says. The sandier soils in south-central Kansas cannot hold as much water as the soils in western Kansas. Even though the area received more moisture than southwest Kansas, the soils didn’t hold the water.

Overall, there is little disease pressure in the 2022 crop. That’s the good; the bad is that in addition to drought, freeze damage has hit some fields in south-central and northwest Kansas. And if that’s not all, hail events have peppered isolated areas in central and western Kansas the last few weeks.

In Kansas, wheat harvest is three to six weeks from beginning, Kansas Wheat added in a news release. 

Although too late to help the 2022 wheat crop, parched areas of southwest Kansas received much-needed moisture Wednesday. Rainfall totals from a scant 0.1 to 0.73 inch, giving farmers in the 15-county southwest corner of the state a little hope for fall crops.

The three-day Winter Wheat Tour is attended by members of the wheat industry, including millers, bakers, grain marketers, and farmers. They receive training on how to evaluate wheat fields for yield, insect damage, and viruses. The tour is a snapshot in time of the Kansas wheat crop, and doesn’t take into account yield-enhancing or yield-reducing practices or events.

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