Wheat Quality Tour Sees Good, Bad and Ugly

The wheat crop in some areas will be very good, in others about average in the still drought-plagued west, pretty awful.

Published on: May 3, 2012

It won't be the best Kansas wheat crop ever, but in places it will be pretty good. It won't the worst ever either, but in places it will pretty awful. Overall, it will likely be above average, but perhaps not by much.

That's the word at the end of Day 2 of the annual Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour, which made its way from Colby to Wichita on Wednesday, following 6 routes that covered western and southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma.

Tour members agreed that the worst of the wheat has been hit by severe lack of moisture and is located in the western and especially southwestern part of the state.

THE ROUTES: A staple of the annual Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour is the map that defines the routes various cars, driven by veteran volunteers, will take as participants sample wheat fields across the state. The routes are determined not only by roads that provide good opportunities for field samples but by proximity to Kansas historical or tourism landmarks such as the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, the World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well in Greensburg, the Dalton Gang Hideout in Meade, Pat’s Beef Jerky in Liebenthal, the Mennonite Museum in Goessel or the Smoky Valley Roller Mill in Lindsborg.
THE ROUTES: A staple of the annual Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour is the map that defines the routes various cars, driven by veteran volunteers, will take as participants sample wheat fields across the state. The routes are determined not only by roads that provide good opportunities for field samples but by proximity to Kansas historical or tourism landmarks such as the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, the World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well in Greensburg, the Dalton Gang Hideout in Meade, Pat’s Beef Jerky in Liebenthal, the Mennonite Museum in Goessel or the Smoky Valley Roller Mill in Lindsborg.

"You can draw a line from Hoisington to Great Bend to Medicine Lodge," said Kansas State University agronomist Jim Shroyer. "Everything to the east looks pretty good. Everything to the west, not so good."

Estimates of the total yield for the Kansas crop took a beating on Day 2 as the 22 cars carrying almost 100 tour participants traveled that not so good territory. The combined yield average estimate for Day 2 was 43.7 bushels to the acre, compared to an estimate of 53.6 on Day 1, which sampled fields from Manhattan to Colby, mostly in the northern half of the state where fall moisture was better and conditions have overall been more favorable for higher yields.

Kansas farmers planted about 9.5 million acres of wheat last fall. Average abandonment is about 7%, though there is an expectation of less abandonment this year because of high prices.

Shroyer said the central corridor, often the best-yielding in the state, looks particularly good this year and fungicide use to combat stripe and leaf rust has been up dramatically – a fact that contributes to increased yield prospects.

In the two days of the tour, participants sampled 566 fields, calculating yield potential using a formula developed by Kansas State University and the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service. Depending on maturity level of the crop, the estimate is made by counting tillers, heads or spikelets on heads for about a foot of each of three to five rows in a field.

Participation in the tour was up markedly this year over previous years, with representation from states across the country and some foreign countries, including Mexico, Japan and Brazil. Tour members include producers, government officials, marketing specialists, journalists and industry officials including milling, baking and trading companies.

Shroyer said moisture deficiency is definitely taking a toll in the western part of the state. At this stage of development, the crop is using about 0.3 inches of moisture a day, meaning a timely rain of about an inch will be depleted in about three days.

Tour participants said the worst wheat they saw was in the area between Garden City and Medicine Lodge, while the best was in central Kansas.

The tour will continue today from Wichita to Kansas City, where participants will conclude their tour experience at the Kansas City Board of Trade.