By Julia Debes, contributing editor, assistant director of communications, U.S. Wheat Associates
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.
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.
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.”
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.