Kansas Wheat Crop Facing Lowest Yields in at Least 14 Years Based on Drought ConditionsThu, 01 May 2014 06:43:20 CDT
Scouts on the second day of the 2014 HRW Wheat Quality Tour reported the lowest yields in at least the last 14 years as they traveled south and east from Colby to Wichita.
Along the six routes, scouts made a total of 271 stops on Wednesday. They estimated the average yield at 30.8 bushels per acre, substantially below last year's average of 37.1 bushels per acre on Day 2. The two-day running average estimate is now at 32.8 bushels per acre, based on 542 stops.
According to Tim Bartram with the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, "We expected to see not very good wheat and it delivered. Fields that where good enough to count where few and far between. And those that were would likely not meet those counts if the weather forecast is correct. The averages that the crop scouts have deveoped are significantly below last year and the worst in a while. This crop is much below what the most of the participants expected including several of the veteran observers." Bartram adds that "the hardest number to guess will be the acres harvested."
Lack of moisture continues to dominate concerns. Scouts reported extremely dry conditions, which has resulted in shorter than normal wheat and thin stands. Scattered fields had headed out, with participants seeing fewer spikelets and smaller heads than expected.
Scouts reported high variability in today's reports, with high/low yield estimates ranging from 7 bushels per acre to 63 bushels per acre. Crops in the northwestern part of the state were reported as improved from last year's tour, but still well below the five-year average. In the far western counties, scouts reported very short wheat that is unlikely to be harvested.
Kansas Wheat Commissioner and Clearwater-area farmer, Scott Van Allen, wasn't surprised at the low yields being reported. He commented the crop still had great potential as recently as three weeks ago, but as the temperatures have warmed and moisture supplies continue to dissipate, he has grown less optimistic. Van Allen stated, "If moisture arrives in the near future, maximum yields in our area will probably be in the 35-40 bushel range. That's a far cry from yields we were hoping for as the crop first broke dormancy this spring."
Overall, Kansas will need additional moisture soon to fulfill the crop's current potential.
"Moisture is definitely our limiting factor," Jeanne Falk-Jones, northwest area extension specialist with K-State Research and Extension, said. "Looking at rainfall factors, there is no reason the wheat should even should be looking this good. The cool weather lately has helped preserve the good stand established last fall, but high winds continue to threaten the crop."
According to Mark Hodges, executive director of Plains Grains, Inc. the tour estimates at this point are reporting top-end yield potential, "We cannot make any more wheat, we can only preserve what we already have." Hodges presented the Oklahoma estimate developed earlier in the day in Oklahoma City to the crowd in Wichita on Wednesday night.
The Wheat Quality Tour will wrap up on Thursday as scouts will check fields from Wichita to Kansas City. The final estimates for average yield as well as total Kansas wheat production will be released after the tour's final meeting at the Kansas City Board of Trade building. Last year, the tour estimated Kansas wheat production would average 41.1 bushels per acre, close to the final USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service's final yield for Kansas of 38 bushels per acre.
You can follow several of the scouts on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #WheatTour14.
(Tim Bartram of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers and Julia Debes of US Wheat Associates contributed to this report)
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