Twenty cars carrying around 80 crop scouts left Manhattan, KS early Tuesday morning (May 17) to fan out across the state and sample wheat yields. This year, wheat yields in Kansas are a big unknown as divergent weather has created yield question marks. In the Northeast part of the state, growing conditions have been mostly favorable hovering around normal for this time of year. But, as you move west and the south, drought and heat have taken their toll, cutting into yield prospects.
Last week USDA released their May forecast for winter wheat yields and pegged the Kansas state yield at 39 bushels per acre, off sharply from last year’s reading of 52 bushels. The estimated yield from the tour came in at 39.7 bushels per acre versus the average from last year at 47.4 bushels. Production is seen at 261 million bushels, implying USDA’s harvested area total is viewed as too optimistic by the tour.
On this year’s tour, Rejeana Gvillo, FBN’s Senior Economist, was on the road participating in the tour and giving first hand perspectives from her route. Here are some of her comments and observations.
The western half of the state is in need of moisture.
Having been on the tour previously, this was the first time I did not get damp when walking into a field before lunch. It was so dry and hot, dew was nonexistent until we were in the Wichita area.
There were many (what I would call) aborted (solid white) wheat heads from a combination of freeze damage and/or lack of moisture.
There are limited pest/disease issues because it is so dry.
Expectations for an above-average protein crop are present.
The bulk of the crop was flowering or in the milk stage thus rain in the coming week or two could help and definitely maintain the crop - but would not substantially alter my views on the overall health of the KS wheat crop.
Harvest is 2-6 weeks off, depending on the area.
In several western/southern fields, stalks are so short that a combine header won’t be able to cut the wheat.
My opinion is that USDA’s harvested area expectation is too large. Therefore I expect harvested area to come in lower in the June Acreage report.
Day 1 should have been a pretty decent crop based on USDA’s crop conditions showing the crop rating that was mostly fair. Of the 13 stops, only one stop showed a field level yield that was above last year’s county yield. Freeze damage was observed on stop 5, and yield in that field was off 20 bushels from the county average in 2021. As the route headed West across the northern reaches of the state yields definitely got lower, reflecting the challenging growing season.
Read more about the key findings from Day 1.
Day 2’s scouting tour headed into the worst areas for yield and the findings confirmed how bad it is. Yields fell dramatically as the tour hit the SW corner of KS. But as the tour reached the south central region of the state, yield conditions began to improve.
Read more about the key findings from Day 2.
Day 3 offered no surprises. As the tour headed north of Wichita towards Manhattan, but with only a few miles between the cities, Rejeana made just two stops to wrap up the final day of the tour.
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