MANHATTAN, KANSAS, US — After a three-day tour of the cropping districts where the largest portion of US hard winter wheat crop is grown, scouts on May 16 estimated Kansas wheat production in 2024 at 290.4 million bushels, which compared with the US Department of Agriculture’s May 10 projection at 267 million bushels.

Scouts concluded the tour with a half day, measuring a few fields enroute to the Mennonite Heritage & Agricultural Museum in Goessel, Kansas, US, and more in a leg that took the tour back to its genesis in Manhattan.

On the basis of 27 field stops, scouts calculated an average yield estimate of 57.3 bushels per acre for Day 3, the shortest leg of the tour stretching from Wichita to Manhattan. That compared with 44.1 bushels per acre based on 52 field stops as the Day 3 average a year earlier and was the highest for the third day since 60.7 bushels per acre in 2021.

The cumulative and final average yield estimate for the three-day tour was 46.5 bushels per acre, made on the basis of 449 field assessments, which compares with 30 bushels per acre after 652 field stops on the 2023 tour and was the highest tour estimate since 58.1 bushels per acre in 2021.

“We’re close to what we would consider an average crop,” said Dave Green, executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council. “This is a snapshot of where we think the crop is today. That doesn’t mean some of us don’t think the crop will improve or worsen before harvest.”

The group’s average production estimate of the 2024 Kansas crop was 290.4 million bus.

Scouts over three days of nightly car reports to the wider group, indicated an overall good crop had developed, although its potential was somewhat limited by three months of scanty precipitation during the critical February-April plant development stages. Because of that drought stress, the crop at times appeared wavy when viewed from above, as area of the field varied widely in height and stands. While there were no overwhelming disease, viral or pest pressures, scouts frequently noted finding leaf and stripe rust, some Fusarium root rot and aphid presence.

Romulo Lollato, a wheat and forages extension specialist with K-State Extension, summarized the crop at the tour’s culminating meeting in Manhattan.

“Where is this crop going to go?” he asked. “If things go very well down the road with nice weather this will remain a good crop. But if there is hot humid weather in the next couple weeks, it could go downhill from there. Variability is the name of the game we’re seeing. Fields estimated at 25 bushels an acre and then 30 miles down the road, 65 bushels. We will see quite a bit of abandonment and are already getting calls from farmers who have called insurance adjusters out to their fields. It has been another odd, unusual year. Major concerns are freeze damage, stripe rust is active with weather remaining on the moist side at this stage, and of course, western Kansas drought.”

Seventy millers, bakers, growers and others along the entire wheat value chain, plus representatives from academia, media and government, comprised this year’s tour, which is planned and produced by the Wheat Quality Council and Green, with assistance from Justin Gilpin and Aaron Harries of Kansas Wheat.