Winter Wheat Tour Expected to See Big HRW Crop


Northern Ag Network Note:  The 2012 Hard Red Winter Wheat Tour will run from May 1 to May 3.

by Katie Micik, DTN Markets Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — Crop scouts on the Wheat Quality Council’s Hard Red Winter Wheat Tour will see a Kansas crop that’s closer to maturity than usual and will see more diseases than in recent years, tour organizer Ben Handcock said.

“I expect we’ll see pretty good wheat almost everywhere,” Handcock said. “I suspect there will be a few spots in southwest Kansas or far west Kansas that still don’t have as much rain as they would have liked to have had.”

The wheat crop is about three weeks ahead of schedule — because of winter’s and spring’s above-normal temperatures — and is in great condition, a marked reversal from last year’s drought-stressed crop. As of April 22, 45{fd15d42d1b024b97d6d50958be27cc8145b6addb99e015780abccf2984117bb0} of the crop was headed, ahead of 5{fd15d42d1b024b97d6d50958be27cc8145b6addb99e015780abccf2984117bb0} last year, and 68{fd15d42d1b024b97d6d50958be27cc8145b6addb99e015780abccf2984117bb0} was rated in good-to-excellent condition.

The record 100 tour participants — millers, crop insurance agents, farmers, traders and media — will spend three days sampling fields and wiping mud off their boots. The tour releases an average yield estimate Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and a final statewide yield and production estimate on Thursday.

Justin Gilpin, executive director of the Kansas Wheat Commission, said the core question the tour will attempt to answer remains the same each year: How big will this crop be?


DTN Senior Analyst Darin Newsom pulled together several years of DTN Crop Condition Index data, which accounts for good and poor crop conditions, and compared it to Kansas’s final average yield. This week’s DTN Crop Condition Index was 169 points.

“I’m not a big believer in analogous years but, if I were, this year’s Kansas wheat crop is a near mirror image of 2010 except for being two to three weeks ahead,” Newsom said. In 2010, the crop would have hit 45{fd15d42d1b024b97d6d50958be27cc8145b6addb99e015780abccf2984117bb0} headed between the second and third week of May, with a DTN Crop Condition Index of 166 points. In 2010, final yield was 45 bushels per acre.

“Another year that holds possibilities is 2003,” Newsom said. Kansas’s crop was 45{fd15d42d1b024b97d6d50958be27cc8145b6addb99e015780abccf2984117bb0} headed between the first and second week of May with a DTN Crop Condition Index of 128 points. It yielded 48 bpa.

“I would put 2012 Kansas yield at approximately 47 bpa,” Newsom said, with an overall production estimate of 424 million bushels, the largest since 2003’s 480 mb if realized.

The strong carry in new-crop futures spreads indicates commercial traders are planning on a bumper crop adding to already ample global supplies, DTN Analyst John Sanow said. “This means HRW, as well as SRW and HRS, will depend upon the other grains and the U.S. dollar index for direction. Unless the wheat tour finds something shockingly different than what the trade is expecting, I don’t know that it will get more than a passing glance by investors.”


Kansas Wheat Commission’s Gilpin said this crop faces a lot of pressure from diseases and there are questions about the extent of frost damage.

Jim Shroyer, Kansas State University’s extension agronomy state leader and wheat expert, said the story this year is stripe rust and aphids.

“We’ve probably had more wheat treated with fungicides this year than anytime that I’ve ever been here,” he told DTN. Two of the most popular varieties in the central part of the state — Everest and Armour — were affected by stripe rust this year but showed resistance in 2010.

“Those people that didn’t spray, I think that they’re going to pay the price,” he said.

The warm winter also contributed to heavy aphid pressure, which caused more barley yellow dwarf, especially in central Kansas, he said.

Gilpin wondered if the crop’s early maturation could cut into yields, but Shroyer said there are a few ways to look at it.

“Usually in an early year, there are hot and dry conditions and that stresses the wheat,” Shroyer said. But so far, most of the state avoided that stress. On the other hand, “the thought process is, maybe it will be cool in May and that will give it more time and better filling conditions. Well, I think there’s logic to that, but we’re having an early year because of above-normal temperatures. It was 95 degrees here yesterday. That’s in April,” he said Thursday.


Scouts will travel in 22 cars along the same six routes that the tour’s been using for more than 20 years. Scouts stop in about two wheat fields per county. If the wheat is headed out, scouts count heads, spikelets and kernels. If wheat is in flag leaf or boot stage, they count tillers.

Then scouts enter data into formulas to estimate yield. Historically, the formula for headed wheat is only needed in southern Kansas and Oklahoma’s northern counties.

“If anything we should be more accurate because we’re counting heads and counting the number of kernels on the heads. So I think it will be more accurate than counting tillers, which some of them slough off and some aren’t going to make a head anyways,” Handcock said about the yields.

Gilpin said scouts may be using both formulas in the same day, possibly even in the same county, which could make it difficult to tell if estimates are slightly off. Last year, for instance, dry soil conditions caused plants to slough tillers early, and scouts thought the formula overcompensated and yield estimates were too low.

“Either way it’s still an estimate and you still have a lot that can happen to the crop as far as how that head fills out,” Gilpin said.

DTN Markets Editor Katie Micik will be tweeting her observations from the field. Follow her at @KatieMDTN to see her latest updates or to ask her questions.


© Copyright 2012 DTN/The Progressive Farmer, A Telvent Brand. All rights reserved.

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp


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