by Emily Unglesbee, DTN Staff Reporter
KANSAS CITY (DTN) — Scouts on the 2014 HRW wheat tour made 587 stops and calculated an average yield of 33.2 bushels per acre for the Kansas wheat crop this year. That's down from 41.1 bpa last year and the lowest estimated yield from the tour since 2001. They estimated that Kansas will produce 260,693,740 bushels of grain, also below the state's actual production of 319,000,000 bushels last year, and the tour's lowest estimated production since 1996.
This year's wheat crop is suffering through the combined effects of a four-year drought and a brutally cold winter that dipped into sub-zero temperatures several times. Scouts spent three days traveling throughout the state of Kansas, as well as southern Nebraska and northern Oklahoma, sampling fields and using a formula to calculate yield. They found a crop delayed by two weeks, struggling with limited soil moisture and, in many cases, heading out early while still very short.
On Thursday, the final day of the tour, scouts stopped in 45 fields and calculated an average yield of 37.8 bpa, compared to 52.3 bpa last year.
Tour veteran Dave Green said the wheat he saw over the course of the tour seemed to be at the end of its rope. “It looked to me that the crop had seemed optimistic itself — it had put out good tillers, good head size even, and now it's just flat out of gas,” he said. “It's struggling and needs some rain pretty quickly.”
Tour experts said the final yield estimate is most likely a best-case scenario for many wheat fields. “It's very critical for us to get moisture,” Kansas State agronomist Lucas Haag told scouts. “You've all seen what our top-end potential is, but it's what happens from here on that matters.”
Haag said more moisture will be essential for wheat plants to meet the yield potential measured by scouts, who often relied on counting tillers instead of heads. “What we're really looking for right now is getting the moisture to preserve the kernels that are there,” he said. “And it's also going to take some good weather during grain fill to finish out what kernels we are managing to maintain going forward.”
Yield may be set in plants that have headed out already, but quality isn't, Kansas Wheat Alliance President Daryl Strouts told DTN. “I don't think we really know quality yet,” he said. “Quality will be determined in the next three to four weeks, because we'll get to see how many berries will be in the head and how much moisture they'll have to fill out. If it's already headed out, they're not going to yield anymore, but if they caught some timely rains, they could still fill those berries up.”
Unfortunately, the weather is unlikely to cooperate in the short term, Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino noted.
Palmerino said the HRW wheat crop was protected early Thursday morning by wind and cloud cover, as well as the stage of crop. However, he said the crop faces more stress in the next few days as temperatures are going to increase much above normal in the Southern Plains, perhaps into the 90s Fahrenheit, and last until the middle of next week. “This could be the hottest weather we've seen yet this spring,” said Palmerino.
He noted the poor crops and diminished yields in Oklahoma crops that scouts saw during the tour this week. A lot of Kansas crops could still benefit from rain in Kansas, compared to Oklahoma, he said.
The rain is needed soon, he emphasized. “Kansas might be right behind them if they don't improve,” he warned. He added there could be “massive deterioration in Kansas within the next couple of weeks if it doesn't start to rain more.”
Unfortunately, the longer-term weather models still show the dry pattern continuing for at least the next 10 days, with only a chance of a few light showers at best, Palmerino said.
Rollin Sears, Syngenta's head cereal breeder for North America, urged some optimism, however. “The real thing to keep in mind as you count tillers is to remember that at this time of the year, the wheat plant is as tough and resilient as it's ever going to be,” he told scouts. “So it has a great capacity to recover, and it's really difficult to look at the crop and get a good feel for what the yield is going to be, primarily because the wheat crop is very tough and can be very responsive to weather.”
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Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp