The 2021 Wheat Quality Council’s Hard Winter Wheat Tour across Kansas wrapped up on May 20. During the three days of wheat scouting, tour participants traveled six routes from Manhattan to Colby to Wichita and back to Manhattan. This year’s tour hosted 45 participants from 13 states in 15 vehicles while traveling across the state.
The three-day average yield for the fields that were calculated was 58.1 bushels per acre. While an estimated 7.3 million acres of wheat were planted in the fall, the Kansas wheat crop varies in condition based on planting date and amount of moisture received. What Mother Nature has in plan for the wheat crop still remains to be seen, but the tour captures a moment in time for the yield potential for fields across the state.
This year’s tour was held several weeks later in May than the tour traditionally takes place. In the traditional timeframe of late April/early May, many of the fields have not yet headed out. Scouts use an early season formula model to calculate the potential yield of the fields. This year, more than half of the fields had already headed, so attendees were able to use a late-season formula to calculate yields, based on number of wheat heads, number of spikelets and kernels per spikelet. These formulas are provided by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The formulas do not take into consideration variables such as weed pressure, disease and pests. Tour scouts saw evidence of wheat streak mosaic virus, stripe rust, Russian wheat aphid and other diseases. The most noted disease pressure was stripe rust, and many fields had been sprayed with a fungicide.
In early May, fields across the state, especially in southwest, south central and west central Kansas, were severely drought stressed. Rain moved across Kansas during the first two weeks of May, with some locations receiving up to 8 inches of rain. Tour participants saw wet fields along the routes, with water standing in many fields. This rain was welcomed relief and improved crop conditions significantly.
The official tour projection for total production of wheat to be harvested in Kansas is 365 million bushels. This number is the average of estimated predictions from tour participants who gathered information from 350 fields across the state. Based on May 1 conditions, NASS predicted the crop to be 331 million bushels, with a yield of 48 bushels per acre.
The estimate for the Nebraska wheat crop is 36.7 million bushels, up 8% from last year. The estimated yield average is 47 bushels per acre. The Colorado crop is estimated at 64.5 million bushels, based on 2.05 million acres planted and a 15.5% abandonment rate, leaving 1.73 million acres to be harvested. The estimate is for an average of 37.3 bushels per acre across the state. Oklahoma reported that the state’s production is estimated at 110.74 million bushels with 37.1 bushels per acre yield. Harvested acres are estimated at 2.985 million acres.
This year, the evening crop discussions were livestreamed on Kansas Wheat’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/KansasWheat. This gave members of the industry, including international buyers who weren’t able to travel to Kansas for the tour, an opportunity to get a look at this year’s hard winter wheat crop during this current snapshot in time. While the much-needed moisture improved the outlook of the Kansas wheat crop, these fields are still 4-7 weeks from harvest. A lot can happen during that time to affect final yields and production.
For more information about what participants saw statewide, search #wheattour21 on Twitter.