Wheat Quality Council Tour See Upside HRW Yield Potential
What a difference a year makes. This week the Wheat Quality Council’s annual “Hard Red Wheat Tour” hit the road again to survey the Kansas crop, measuring yield potential and scouting conditions. This time last year, the tour participants estimated yield at a lower than expected 35.9 bushels per acre (bu/ac). In contrast, this year’s tour saw much better field conditions and projected higher yields.
Tour participants come from as far as Australia and represent all facets of the wheat industry, including millers, traders, media, farmers, researchers and government officials. USW sent two colleagues on the tour this year: West Coast Office Assistant Director Shawn Campbell and Policy Specialist Elizabeth Westendorf.
Just a few hours before USW published this issue of “Wheat Letter,” the tour estimated a final average yield potential of 48.6 bu/ac or about 3.27 MT per hectare for the 2016/17 Kansas hard red winter (HRW) crop. This year the tour participants made 655 stops to scout fields. Combining seeded area with per-acre yield potential, the total production potential estimate was 382.4 million bushels (10.4 MMT). Last year’s total production estimate was 288.5 million bushels (7.85 MMT).
On the first day, starting in Manhattan, the tour traveled along several routes covering most of Kansas’ northern counties. The cumulative Day 1 average yield potential was 47.2 bu/ac, which is equivalent to about 3.15 MT per hectare, compared to 34.3 bu/ac in 2015. To reach that average, participants surveyed 306 fields — a tour record for a single day — with fields ranging from a low of 21 bu/ac to a high of 93 bu/ac. Pressure from stripe rust, wheat streak mosaic and barley yellow dwarf foliar diseases was evident. It was apparent that many farmers used preventive control measures, as untreated fields were visibly poorer. Kansas Wheat Commission CEO Justin Gilpin said that more farmers are protecting their wheat with fungicides this year because of last year’s disease damage and because the recent influx of moisture created optimal conditions for diseases to develop.
Participants also received a report on the Nebraska and Colorado wheat crops. Nebraska estimated an average 55.0 bu/ac for a total production estimate of 70.4 million bushels (1.92 MMT). Colorado estimated an average of 39.0 bu/ac with total production estimated at 78.0 million bushels.
On the second day, the tour traveled on routes that led from the city of Colby to Wichita, making 300 stops. Again, field conditions varied by route, but the crop was noticeably better than last year. Wheat streak mosaic was more prevalent on Day 2, and participants reported seeing barley yellow dwarf, leaf rust and stripe rust. However, farmers were keeping aerial applicators busy to stay ahead of disease pressure. The Day 2 estimated average yield was 49.3 bu/ac (3.31 MT per hectare), for a combined two-day average of 48.2 bu/ac across 606 stops. Last year, the Day 2 average was 34.5 bu/ac and the combined two-day average was 34.4 bu/ac. This was the highest Day 2 average estimate the tour has seen since 2012.
Participants also received a crop report from Oklahoma, where low cash prices encouraged more cattle grazing on wheat this year. The estimated average yield in Oklahoma is 33.6 bu/ac, for a total production estimate of 128 million bushels or about 3.48 MMT. The crop development is well ahead of normal with farmers expecting to start harvest at the end of May.
The third and final day of the tour was shorter, with each car making 3 to 4 field stops on the way from Wichita back to Manhattan for the final report. The Day 3 estimated average yield was 53.5 bu/ac, (3.51 MT per hectare) across 49 stops.
Fields throughout the tour exhibited signs of early season drought stress, but in many cases, the right amount moisture in April came just in time to save the crop. While weather can still massively effect these estimates in the upcoming weeks, they highlight what a difference a year can make.
“The wheat tour is a valuable experience not only because you get in the field and look at the crop up close, but also because of the connections you make. These are aspects of the industry that you don’t always get to see when you are in the office,” said Westendorf, who was a first time participant on the tour. “Now I have a better understanding of the hard decisions that farmers have to make and the challenges they face growing wheat. It reinforced that the United States indeed produces high quality wheat.”
View highlights and photos from the tour by searching #wheattour16 on Facebook and Twitter. The WQC also sponsors a spring wheat tour in the Northern Plains in July. For more information, visit the Council’s web site at http://www.wheatqualitycouncil.org.
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