In the end, nearly a hundred intrepid winter wheat scouts made it safely to Wichita with measurements, estimates and stories at the conclusion of day two of the 61st annual wheat tour sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council.
The biggest task for tour participants gathered Wednesday night at Doubletree hotel in Wichita was estimating the average yield of fields examined by the scouts during that day. Ultimately, that figure was 35.2 bushels per acre, down 8% from the previous day’s estimated average of 38.2 bushels per acre, and down 25% from the 2017 day-two average of 46.9 bushels per acre. Scouts braved morning cold, midday sun and intense early afternoon rain and hail to make 284 stops Wednesday, down 10% from the previous day’s 317 stops, but up 39% from 205 stops on the second day of the tour in 2017.
Averaging the two days of measurements thus far resulted in an average bushel-per-acre estimate at 36.8, down 18% from 44.9 bushels for the first two days of the 2017 tour. Stops along six routes during the two days totaled 601, up 41% from the first two days in 2017.
The highest bushel-per-acre field estimate was 60, with the lowest estimate at 11. South central Kansas producers who spoke to scouts Wednesday were mostly confident in their crops, despite challenges presented by recent drought conditions. That included a grower just north of Leoti, Kansas, U.S., who had a field split between two hard white winter wheat varieties: Aspen within an irrigated circle and dryland Danby wheat on the remaining portion. Though small, that wheat appeared to be thriving. Scouts calculated a higher bushel-per-acre estimate for the dryland than the irrigated wheat with 61.24 as average of the two.
An agronomist from Kansas State University asked scouts to consider the impact of an 11-bushel-per-acre decrease from a year ago on total crop production estimate.
“The crop is late for this part of the state,” said Romulo Lollato, assistant professor of agronomy, wheat and forages extension specialist with Kansas State University. “The earliest crop is still at boot stage.”
Lollato raised the question of what to expect if there are near-perfect weather conditions for the remainder of the season.
“Let’s talk about 2016, when we had cool and moist grain-filling conditions, and the crop was also going through pretty severe stress all the way through to May 2, when the rains started. The conditions were actually very good, so that might be a year for us to look back on and compare.”
Lollato also noted farmers whose wheat was infected with rust stripe will face choices about their wheat, and these may have implications on the statewide estimate to be determined Thursday.
“What’s the likelihood that a producer is really going to invest in another fungicide application if we have such a low crop emerging,” he asked.” I don’t think they will make that investment.”
Four-scout crews traveling in 24 vehicles were set to depart Wichita Thursday morning and make stops every 30 to 40 minutes in route to the International Grains Program Conference Center for an 11:30 a.m. final discussion during which participants will forecast a final yield for the 2018 Kansas wheat crop.