Scouts Estimate Record Low Wheat Yields Based on Drought

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

Projections for the Kansas hard red winter (HRW) wheat crop are the poorest in 13 years, according to the annual HRW Wheat Quality Tour. Seventy-five scouts calculated the overall Kansas wheat yield of 33.2 bushels per acre, based on 587 total stops, much lower than the five-year average of 41.8 bushels per acre. That estimate is the lowest since 2001 when the projected average yield was 32.7 bushels per acre.

Tour participants also projected total Kansas wheat production at 260.6 million bushels, the lowest estimate since 2011. If realized, this would be the lowest production since 1996 when Kansas farmers harvested a total 255.2 million bushels.

“One thing that really stood out about this crop is the extent of the drought damage. It wasn’t just a portion of the state, or just one region, but rather was affecting the entire crop,” said Justin Gilpin, chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat. “Although the wheat was disappointing, the tour itself was still a great experience. This year brought together an incredibly diverse representation of all aspects of the grain chain, including farmers, wheat buyers, millers, government representatives and even participants from Wal-Mart and Brazil.”

On the third and final day of the tour, participants made fewer stops on their route from Wichita to Kansas City, but still reported seeing drier than normal conditions. Scouts made 45 stops and reported an average estimate of 37.8 bushels per average, significantly lower than last year’s 52.3 bushels per average based on 29 stops.

“There is a lot of poor and fair wheat out there with not enough good to excellent fields,” said Daryl Strouts, executive director of the Kansas Wheat Alliance and long-time tour participant. “If the state does not receive normal to abundant rainfall soon, then the wheat will not even meet its current potential.”

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