COLBY, KANSAS, US — Scouts touring the central and northern cropping districts of Kansas on May 14 found a hard red winter wheat crop that was mostly in good condition with mild instances of disease, viral and pest pressure along with minor freeze and hail damage.

Based on measurements and calculations made during 206 field stops made along six routes through central and northern Kansas, the average yield estimate from Day 1 of the tour was 49.9 bushels an acre. That compared with 29.8 bushels per acre based on 318 field stops in 2023 and was the second highest yield estimate for the tour’s initial leg in 10 years after 59.2 bushels an acre was estimated in 2021.

Car reports from 18 teams of four scouts apiece indicated wheat conditions were highly variable, generally worsening as the tour moved west, a result of drought stress in western areas that received far less moisture than the rest of the state during the critical February-to-April growth period. Some scouts also saw wheat that was highly variable in height, condition and development within single fields.

Scouts described seeing some evidence of the fungal diseases leaf rust, and stripe rust; the pathogenic virus wheat streak mosaic; and loose smut, which occurs when plants head too early, before its spores are enclosed by the seed coat. None of those crop problems were prevalent in any field. Reports noted the occasional presence of ladybugs, an indicator of aphids that feed on wheat. Grasshoppers were at times noted around the periphery of fields.

Some wheat heads appeared damaged, likely the result of a hail event. Others were partially or fully white, a symptom of freeze damage that likely occurred during a cold weather event in late March. Fields mostly had strong stands and appeared as a wavering sea of green, although in some instances areas of sparse stands where plants never emerged.

Tour organizers told scouts they likely would see more evidence of drought stress as the tour moves west from Colby and then proceeds south to the Lakin and Dodge City areas. The tour’s second day will conclude with a meeting in Wichita where Day 2 yield averages will be compared with previous years and combined to create a two-day average for comparison.