DEVILS LAKE, NORTH DAKOTA, US — For a second day, wheat scouts trekking through North Dakota to appraise the wheat crop found mild disease pressure and weather stress, medium grasshopper pressure, later development and potential for relatively good yields.
Scouts taking part in the 2022 Hard Spring and Durum Wheat Quality tour traveled hundreds of miles for a second consecutive day, this time departing Mandan, North Dakota, US, early Wednesday en route to Devils Lake. Along the sometimes-circuitous color-coded routes, groups of three and four scouts measured wheat fields and attempted to do so at least once in every county. Taking care to steer clear of fenced or posted no trespassing land, most teams measured multiple fields per county.
More durum fields were checked on Day 2, 29 compared with four a day earlier, but fewer hard red spring fields, 104 versus 120 a day earlier. That was partly a product of the territory as more durum is grown in the northwestern portion of the state.
From 133 total fields measured, appraised and calculated, the Day 2 average yield estimate for hard red spring wheat was 47.7 bushels an acre, dwarfing the 2021 drought year Day 2 average estimate of 24.6 bpa, and beating the 2019 Day 2 average estimate of 40.8 bpa. In fact, Wednesday’s figure topped the Day 2 estimate from the past six tours dating back to 2015, excluding the tourless year of 2020.
However, the number of fields checked was the second lowest of that period after 95 in 2021 and well below the recent high of 188 fields in 2017.
More than anything, that appears to be part of a trend away from wheat toward production of one of the many other crops that thrive in North Dakota. Scouts traversing the interstates, state highways, and gravel roads saw many fields seeded to barley, canola, corn, soybeans, or sunflowers. Prevented planting acres were observed on nearly every route.
As on tour Day 1, the calculations recorded by each scouting vehicle’s designated statistician were added and averaged by Rita Ott, QRO product manager with General Mills and the chairwoman of the Wheat Quality Council’s executive committee for 2022. The two-day cumulative yield estimate for 2022 hard red spring wheat, based on 224 field stops, was 48.3 bpa, compared with 27.1 bpa calculated on the basis of 195 fields checked during the first two days of the 2021 tour.
For durum, based on 29 fields measured Wednesday, the average yield estimate was 39.9 bpa, compared with 23.6 bpa in 2021 (11 fields), 35.9 bpa in 2019 (12 fields), and 39.2 bpa in 2018 (13 fields), all Day 2 averages. Cumulatively, based on 34 fields assessed in the first two days of the tour, the estimated durum yield was 40.2 bpa, compared with 24.3 bpa in 2021.
Scouts again noted instances of ergot and fusarium head blight in most fields, but didn’t view them as overwhelming features of the fields. There were signs in select areas that the head blight had caused the mycotoxin DON, aka vomitoxin. Even grasshoppers, whose presence was noted in select fields, and especially in adjacent soybean fields, were not as prevalent as feared. In some cases, scouts noted blackened, expired grasshoppers on the ground between rows of spring wheat, likely a sign that a grower had sprayed to blunt pressure from that pest.
“On my route, I thought we’d see more grasshoppers,” said Jim Peterson, policy and marketing director with the North Dakota Wheat Commission and vice chairman of the Wheat Quality Council for 2022. “And based on the comments from other routes, scouts saw them, but maybe not to the levels we anticipated. Either the producers spraying may be having an effect, or as one producer said, on cooler cloudier days, they tend to stay lower on the canopy, and the hot sunny days, that’s when we see them more, so it could have been today’s weather.”
As to the wide range of maturity levels seen on the tour, a product of a planting window forced wide from April to June by cool temperatures and wet weather, including some spring snows, wheat veterans said fall weather holds increased importance and noted September has brought weather challenges to the state in previous years. Scouts said most fields featured wheat in the hard dough stage and looked to be four to six weeks from harvest. Occasional fields were still in the flowering stage and would need several more weeks for development.
Intrepid scouts planned to depart Devils Lake early Thursday hoping to measure at least four more fields per vehicle during a shortened final tour day also to include a mill tour and a wrap-up meeting with final yield calculation back in Fargo.