Wheat Condition Report – March 6, 2014

For the month of February, winter wheat condition rated four percent very poor, 18 percent poor, 44 percent fair, 32 percent good, and two percent excellent, according to the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service.

Temperatures were colder than normal, with most areas averaging six to ten degrees colder than normal. As the snow melted, wheat fields started to green up and show signs of growth. Some concerns continue regarding the potential for winterkill due to the extremely cold temperatures. The majority of Kansas is abnormally dry, and the western half of the state continues to be in severe drought conditions.

“The Kansas wheat crop is in below average conditions,” said Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin. “We are seeing below average moisture conditions as the crop is nearing time to break dormancy.”

David Schemm, from Wallace County, Kan., reports: “Late planted wheat is in poor condition; that would account for about of the 20% of the wheat. The rest of the wheat is ok. I checked Tuesday, and it looks like it may have lost about 20% of the tillers.”

Brian Linin, from Sherman County, Kan., reports: “Our conditions haven’t changed much in the past month.  We have had some minor instances of maintenance moisture, but nothing significant enough to improve the conditions and outlook.  We need rain and/or snow.”

Richard Randall reports: “Not much change in Scott County. Snow has not been very wet. Wheat is greening up, and some topdressing has started.”

Mike McClellan, from Rooks County, reports: “A light dusting of snow this morning brings more of the same here: slick roads and not much moisture.  Our wheat stands are decent but we have ‘no money in the bank’ as far as moisture.  We need good rains this spring to make a crop.  The cold temps concern me, as the wheat had started to green back up, and we had no snow cover to speak of.  We will know more in a month.  Then we will say we will know more in June!”

Randy Fritzemeier, from Stafford County, Kan., reports: “I think our winter wheat conditions are still ok, even though we’ve had sub-zero weather. We had about 6 inches of snow cover this past weekend. The snow will also help a little with moisture for the wheat. The wheat had greened up a little from earlier in the winter, but still hasn’t started to try to grow.”

Scott Van Allen, from Sedgwick County, reports: “We received about ½ inch of sleet and snow – enough soil moisture to keep us going, but we will need much more at green up. The jury is still out on winter kill as we hit -2 degrees here with little, if any, snow cover after some 50-60 degree days. Some of the late planted small wheat was not greening up on those days, but we will wait and see.”

Doug Keesling, from Rice County, reports: “Our wheat in central Kansas is still asleep today. The early planted wheat in area was burned back very hard, but still looks in average shape, since it was well rooted and had adequate moisture in the fall. The later half of wheat, planted after Fly date or after fall crops, came up before winter but was not as well rooted before the first major freeze hit. Since that freeze I have not seen them green up any compared to the earlier plantings. I feel their tillers have been hurt, but will not know for sure until we have warmer weather. The later we do get that warm up will greatly hurt yield if more tillers can not develop. Sub soil moisture is limited to dry in most places, so we will be needing spring rains to increase potential yields.”

Ken Wood reports: “Things still look pretty tough in northern Dickinson County. There are portions of fields that haven’t started to show any green yet. We will know more about the extent of damage in the next couple of weeks.”

The most positive reports come from the northeast crop reporting district, which unfortunately also has the least planted wheat acres. Jay Armstrong, from Atchison County, reports that the northeast corner of the state received decent snows in the month of February: “The wheat looks good here with plenty of moisture. Some wheat is showing some winter burn from the cold winds, but I don’t think it will have much of an effect as long as the weather stays normal.”

The majority of the wheat in Kansas is grown in central and western Kansas, where moisture levels continue to be below average.

Image: Kansas Drought Monitor.

Source: United States Drought Monitor: Kansas

Would you like to share the condition of the wheat crop in your area? Please send me an email at mboswell@kswheat.com or leave a comment below.

Posted in Farming | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Kansas Wheat Quality Lab

The Kansas Wheat Quality Lab is working on a number of projects on behalf of Kansas wheat farmers. The main funding for the lab is provided by Kansas wheat producers through the two penny per bushel wheat checkoff.

Wheat Breeding Program

The main purpose of the Wheat Quality Lab is to provide testing results for KSU wheat breeders Allan Fritz and Gourong Zhang.

Wheat breeders at Kansas State University continually work to improve the agronomic traits of Kansas wheat varieties. In addition to agronomic traits, successful varieties should be marketable. Dr. Rebecca Miller, director of the Wheat Quality Laboratory, and student employees provide evaluations of physical and chemical kernel characteristics, milling yield and flour and baking properties of promising experimental wheat lines.

The mixograph is used to determine mixing time and how much water will be needed for bread baking.

The mixograph is used to determine mixing time and how much water will be needed for bread baking.

Because the mixograph requires only a few grams of wheat and provides a significant amount of data about the variety, Miller and her students are able to run these tests early in the breeding process. When Fritz sends samples to the Wheat Quality Lab, he is able to eliminate about half of the potential varieties based on the data from the mixograph. Those varieties that move on through the process come back to the lab in a couple years when there is enough flour to conduct a baking test.

Using the results from the mixograph, the flour is mixed into dough.

The dough is made using only flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and shortening. It is a very simple formula used to test the flour. The lab technicians do as much of the process as they can mechanically to reduce the possibility of human error. Dr. Miller trains bakers for about a month before letting them bake actual samples because the job is tedious and the samples cannot be wasted.

Dough is left to rise.

The lab uses pup loaves, made from 100 grams of flour. It takes about a day to bake 20-30 loaves of bread, and each flour sample is baked twice. The lab uses the Finney Method, which was developed at K-State by Carl Finney of the USDA.

Measuring the volume of the loaf

Measuring the volume of the loaf

After the bread is baked, the volume of the loaf is measured using a system of displacement. The loaf of bread is put into the bottom of this device, and canola seeds fall all around it. The marks on the side indicate the volume of the loaf.

Dr. Miller then cuts open the loaf and looks at crumb grain. She can determine how the cells are aligned, if they’re round or oval, and how thick the cell wall is. This tells her if the flour is strong or weak and the strength of the dough.

Tortilla Testing

The tortilla market in the U.S. and abroad is significant and growing. The properties of good quality tortilla flours vary from those of good quality bread flours. Many of the wheat varieties being grown on significant acreage in Kansas are not ideal for pan bread production. Identifying other products in which these varieties will perform well will increase the marketability of Kansas wheat.

Kansas wheat producers need to become more aware of the need to supply high quality grain in order to remain competitive in the world marketplace. Guidance on preferred varieties to grow in order to improve the quality of the Kansas wheat crop is critical.

The Wheat Quality Lab is also looking at the same varieties and screening them for their tortilla making varieties. The properties to make a good tortilla are different from the properties needed to make a good bread. Some of the new varieties may not make good bread, but they might be great for tortillas.

Tortillas are scored based on diameter, thickness, and opacity.

Tortillas are scored based on diameter, thickness, and opacity.

Wheat Quality Council

The Wheat Quality Lab also tests wheats for the Wheat Quality Council. These samples have been in a breeder’s program for 10-12 years, and are the premier lines that are either very close to release or have already been released. These tests are open to all public and private breeders who may submit a check sample, which is the baseline or control sample, and one or two premier varieties. New varieties should meet or exceed the check. The samples are sent to several labs which use their own procedures to test how the flour performs. Breeders are able to evaluate how the flour from their varieties performs using different baking procedures. This gives them a better real world industry view on how their varieties will perform.

Genetic Mapping

Dr. Miller is proposing an additional project for the upcoming year. Researchers have been collecting genetic mapping of the genes that affect agronomic traits, but little has been done on mapping genes that affect quality. They can map genes and test quality so they can identify which genes control bake volume, mix time, water absorption, etc. The wheat samples change every year because of the environment. The Wheat Quality Lab is already doing tests on samples that have good agronomic characteristics, but they’re never testing those with poor agronomic traits because they are discarded before being sent to the lab.

There may be varieties with excellent bread baking qualities but poor agronomic characteristics. Miller’s project proposes to test some of these “rejects,” as she calls them in order to assist in mapping genes that affect quality. They need to test as many samples as they can in order to have a more complete data set.

In the future, breeders may be able to use this data to select genes that provide excellent baking qualities in addition to pest resistance, drought tolerance, yield and any number of other agronomic traits.


Dr. Miller and the Wheat Quality Lab are able to assist in wheat marketing efforts by Kansas Wheat, U.S. Wheat Associates, Wheat Quality Council, K-State Cooperative Extension, International Grains Program, and other regional wheat associations. This is essential to expanding the marketability for Kansas wheat.

Recent Variety Results

Popular wheat varieties grown on 0.2 percent or more of the seeded acres in Kansas in crop year 2014 and several newly released varieties were evaluated using laboratory milling and baking tests. End-use quality for white pan bread production was categorized as most desirable, acceptable, or less desirable using the Wheat Quality Council’s recommended wheat and flour quality targets. Results from 2014 have just been published. Dr. Miller found that the most desirable varieties for milling and bread baking quality were Jagalene, Jagger, and Overley. While the majority of the lines provided acceptable quality, a few were categorized as less desirable. These included Above, Everest, Hitch, T153, and TAM 110.

Posted in Research | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Kansas Wheat Condition Update

The snow cover we received over the past week in Kansas was definitely welcome, but the wheat crop isn’t out of the woods yet. Top soil moisture remains lacking, and most areas throughout the state would like to see moisture in the form of wet snow or rain. Most could probably agree that temperatures above freezing would be helpful too.


Brian Linin, from Sherman County, reports: Over the past 2-3 weeks, we have received a total of approximately 6-8” of what I would call dry, blowing snow. We have had 1 or 2 small snow storms even on the level, but most have had an accompanying wind which tends to drift the snow and not provide even coverage. We still desperately need moisture for the wheat crop.

Eric Sperber, from Thomas County, reports: Good fall moisture allowed for good initial plant development.  However, since November we have been extremely dry, and several days of high winds have made the situation worse. We have had several small snow events, but very little moisture. We will need some good moisture events prior to crop breaking dormancy.

Richard Kvasnicka, from Logan County, reports: We received 4-5″ on Tuesday, February 4. It was a light, fluffy snow. The fields just barely had any on them. Some of the now was pretty dirty in the ditches. Saturday, February 8, it got up to 40+ temperatures and melted all the snow we had. On Sunday, February 9, we had another light snow which amounted to about 2-3″.

Rich Randall, from Scott County, reports: We received four inches of dry snow. It is cold, cold, cold. I don’t know if wheat is okay or not…..it has been frozen for a month.

Ron Suppes, from Lane County, reports: We received 4 to 5 inches of snow, it was very light and did blow off the north side of tilled wheat fields. Surface moisture is limited, and sub-soil moisture is still better than last year. There has been some ground chiseled due to blowing dust.

Mike Jordan, from Mitchell County, reports: We had 3 inches of snow southwest of Beloit, much of which blew off the fields. The wheat leaves have burned down to ground level, but there is some life still in most of the plants.

Justin Knopf, from Saline County, reports: We received about 12″ total of snow. However, the snow was fairly dry and much of it blew off the fields over the weekend. It did leave enough on the fields to provide some insulation from the cold temps, though, which is positive. Overall, the wheat condition is somewhat hard to assess at the moment. There is some limited surface soil moisture. Root development is highly variable, and there are certainly fields with poor stands moving towards spring.

Ken Wood reports: Here in Dickinson County, we received about a foot of snow on top of a couple of inches from last weekend. Prior to the snow, our wheat looked pretty poor. We will just have to wait until later in the spring to see if it actually starts to grow.

Paul Penner, from Marion County, reports: We received between 10 to 12+ inches of snow in our area, depending on location. It was very light, fluffy snow, perhaps containing a little more than 1/2 inch of moisture. The winds did pick up somewhat afterwards, and drifting did occur. Our soil moisture is very short in the top 6 inches. The snow will help the wheat survive the cold temperatures and wind.

Scott Van Allen reports: The wheat in Sumner County finally received some beneficial snow cover Tuesday (2/4/14). We received about 6 inches on the level until the winds blew in on Wednesday. I have heard of some late planted wheat that might be in trouble from the cold weather, but haven’t seen it myself. I am ready for spring! Update: Van Allen reports that they received another five inches of snow Sunday night and Monday (2/9-10). They were glad to get the moisture, but getting really tired of the cold. On the upside, he reports that this cold weather will likely help lower the threat of disease and insect damage this spring.

Jay Armstrong, from Atchison County, reports: Wheat that was planted at the normal time was up and looked good throughout the winter. There was some leaf burn from cold winds, but it still had a good green center. This snow, while hard to live in, was just what the doctor ordered. We got 10” of snow that only had minimal drifting. I would classify our wheat excellent for what is planted, but planting is down because of the late fall harvest.

Would you like to share the condition of the wheat crop in your area? Please send me an email at mboswell@kswheat.com or leave a comment below.

Posted in Farming | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Wheat Film Hits National Audience

Harvesting the High Plains, a wheat documentary, aired on national television Oct. 1. The film, narrated by Mike Rowe, tells the story of Kansas Wheat farmers and the obstacles they have overcome to reach the successes of today.

Intended to honor those involved in the wheat industry today, the film is the story of farmers overcoming the toughest challenges seen by producers of food across the world today.

Available through PBS home video, the film is set to be playing across the nation during various times during over the next four months. Check your local listing for further information.

Filmaker, Jay Kriss is excited for the film to reach a national audience.

“For a little story about Kansas, it is great to get such a national presence,” said Kriss.

Click the link below for a small preview of the film.

Posted in Agronomy, Faces of Harvest, Human Interest, Wheat Harvest | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Congressional Assistants Visit K-State to Discuss Wheat Research

Wheat research took center stage during the first day of the Annual Kansas State University Congressional Agricultural Assistants tour held this week in Manhattan. The tour provides an opportunity for K-State to highlight major research projects, particularly those funded with federal dollars. It also allows the congressional assistants to meet researchers and learn about the answers their research will provide.

Five congressional staff members flew from D.C. to take part in the two-day event. Others included on the tour were staff members from State Congressional offices, the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the Kansas Water Office and Legislative Research.

Dr. Bikram Gill presents to Congressional Assistants August 30.

Dr. Bikram Gill presents to Congressional Assistants August 30.

“K-State has a great base of faculty expertise, research facilities and a tradition of being a leader in wheat research,” says Justin Gilpin, chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat, “It makes a lot of sense that K-State should lead the country in a lot of these research projects.”

In no place is that leadership more evident than in the recently announced National Science Foundation grant award, creating the world’s first agriculturally-focused Industry/University Collaborative Research Center at K-State and Colorado State University.

The center was a major focus of the time that University Distinguished Professor Bikram Gill spent with the aides. Dr. Gill will be acting as the center director.

Will Zorrilla, business manager of the new center, said, “Dr. Gill presented a new, industry guided model for wheat research investment. This center comes from a network of public and private relationships, a trust and a willingness to work together for the good of the wheat community. Our hope is that the aides saw an exciting opportunity to leverage public funding with private investments that translate into huge economic impacts.”

In addition to the new center, the congressional assistants were also treated to research overviews covering Associate Professor Eduard Akhunov’s work to identify the SR35 stem rust gene and recent PhD graduate, Christian Cruz’s work to understand how blast fungi invade plants. Each presentation proved that K-State continues to be a major leader of research within the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative and early detection efforts for rust diseases.

Brandon Harder, Agricultural Legislative Assistant for Senator Jerry Moran, said, “It’s great to be back at K-State and to have the chance to not only see the research projects, but to talk with the researchers. We’re then able to take those stories and conversations back to D.C. to be advocates for the research that is important not only to K-State, but to Kansas.”

Story By: Dalton Henry, Kansas Wheat Director of Governmental Affairs

Posted in Agronomy, Human Interest, Markets | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Another 1st at The Kansas Wheat Innovation Center

The farmer-owned Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan has already been a success with the establishment of a double haploid business.  This week, K-State announced that the Center will soon become the headquarters for a new National Science Foundation Center.

KWIC will host the first Industry/University Cooperative Research Center on wheat.  You can read the whole story here: http://www.kansas.com/2013/08/19/2951928/k-state-to-house-national-science.html  This is the first of these NSF centers in the nation to be designated for plant science.

As part of the I/UCRC Center, the world-renowned Wheat Genetics Resource Center will also operate its wheat gene bank in new laboratories at KWIC. The Kansas Wheat Commission recently purchased a cold storage seed room with grant funds from the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Agency.  The new seed room provides four times the storage capacity of the current WGRC gene bank in Throckmorton Hall on KSU’s campus.

The new gene bank room at the KWIC

The new gene bank room at the KWIC

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Argentinean Farmers Visit Kansas

On a normal year, Argentina and the United States would be competitors in the world wheat market. Argentina has consistently been a large wheat export country and supplier to Brazil. However, after action from the Argentinean government has driven the production of wheat and wheat exports down, it has opened opportunities in the Brazilian wheat market for the United States.


Wheat production has decreased so much in Argentina that this traditionally wheat bountiful country may end up importing wheat before the marketing year is through.

On August 13, 12 Argentinean wheat farmers visited the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center to learn about the wheat industry in the “Breadbasket of the World.” During their visit they caught a glimpse into the American wheat industry and were fascinated by the research and development progressing here in Kansas. Combined with a visit to the International Grains Program the group was able to compare their experience of the Kansas wheat industry to that of their home country.

The group was sponsored by the Kansas Agriculture Rural Leadership Program.

Posted in Human Interest, Markets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment