With the release of the USDA’s August Crop Report earlier this week, the size of the Kansas Wheat Crop has been making the news. Overall the crop came in above many early season estimates, including the USDA’s own pre-harvest June report that estimated the crop at 306 million bushels. To truly understand the effect the drought had on last year’s crop one has to look deeper than the statewide production number.
The USDA set Kansas’ 2013 production at 328 million bushels, a 15 percent reduction from 2012 and roughly 9 percent below the state’s five year production average.
The statewide average yield was an even 40 bpa on 8.2 million harvested acres. It is important to note that the statewide bpa is calculated after abandoned acres are taken out. In 2013 Kansas farmers abandoned 10 percent of their wheat acres, compared to a five-year-average of 6.4 percent. Where the drought was most severe and the most prolonged, the statistics show a much bleaker picture.
Many participants of the annual wheat tour, held the first week of May, observed that the tour was really about two completely different crops. There were fields with record potential through central Kansas that had received ample moisture to establish in the fall. On the other hand, the participants saw fields that had not yet emerged, were poorly established and some that were completely dead. Several participants put the dividing line between the two scenarios at hwy 183. Thumbing through the crop report, it would seem this imaginary line held true through harvest.
The western third of Kansas nearly produced their smallest wheat crop in 45 years. At a production total of 70.5 million bushels, only the 2004 crop of 70.1 million bushels stood between 2013 and the lows of 1968. The bleaker number was the regional abandonment with wheat farmers in the western three crop reporting districts abandoning 26 percent of their acres.
With a crop so dismal across such a large area of the state’s wheat acres, how did the final crop come in only down 15 percent? Cool temperatures and late spring rains left central and eastern Kansas with one of the best crops in years. Looking at those same abandonment and total production numbers, farmers in the central Kansas crop reporting district harvested their fifth-largest crop on record and abandoned only 4.7 percent of acres. Southeast Kansas saw their fourth largest crop in history, 28.5 million bushels, from a mere 6 percent of Kansas’ wheat acres. Southeast Kansas has only out-produced the three western crop reporting districts one time in the last 50 years, in 1968.
Although the recent rains across much of Kansas may not quite be a drought-buster for the entire state, most farmers will be planting into better conditions than they have seen for several years.
Story written by Dalton Henry, KS Wheat Government Relations Specialist.