DEVILS LAKE, N.D. (DTN) -- As Day 2 of the Wheat Quality Council's Spring Wheat and Durum Tour concluded Wednesday, July 26, a line of pop-up evening thunderstorms brought some welcome relief from the day's above-average temperatures. Yet, they also reinforced an observation delivered by those who scouted scores of wheat fields during the heat of the day: Where rain has fallen, wheat has grown in North Dakota.
A total of 138 hard red spring wheat fields were scouted by nearly 60 tour participants traveling in 14 groups on eight routes traversing northwest and north-central North Dakota from Bismarck to Devils Lake. The weighted average yield for those fields was estimated at 45.7 bushels per acre (bpa), 2 bushels less than Day 2 of last year's tour and about 2.5 bushels less than the previous day.
Estimated yields for the day ranged from a low of 16.9 bpa to a high of 88.2 bpa, reinforcing the variable condition of the crop statewide. Combining Day 1 and Day 2 of this year's tour, the average yield was 46.9 bpa, a decrease of 1.4 bpa from 2022.
The scouts also assessed 15 durum fields on Day 2 with an estimated yield of 40.5 bpa, slightly higher than the 39.9 bpa average for the same leg of the tour last year. The two-day average for durum this year was 43.8 bpa, an increase from 40.2 bpa in 2022.
As was the case on Day 1 of this year's tour, pest and disease pressure was reported as minimal with some minimal occurrence of Fusarium head blight, bacterial leaf streak, wheat stem maggots and grasshoppers. One scouting group noted a high number of ladybugs in one field, indicating the presence of aphids.
Like many others, Bill Ongstad, a wheat producer from Harvey in central North Dakota, said that a long, snowy winter and delayed spring kept him from planting his wheat until the end of the first week of May -- some three weeks later than usual. Then, Mother Nature turned up the heat.
"This is my 49th crop, and I've never seen a year with this much hot weather in May and June. That really accelerated the growth," he told DTN in a one-on-one interview. "But on our farm, we were fortunate to get some rain, and our crop is looking pretty good now."
Ongstad said that catching a few rains in early June helped with tiller development, and those tillers have held on to help increase yield. He predicted that his wheat would bin just a hair below average.
"I'm looking for a 60- to 70-bushel wheat crop," he said. "An inch of rain in the next five days would really be great. It would help with grain fill and test weight, but unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's going to happen."
Ongstad wasn't the only wheat grower pining for another inch of rain. Located some 70 miles to the east in Grace City, North Dakota, Jeff Topp also was hoping to see that amount of precipitation fill his rain gauge.
"I've had folks tell us we're the garden spot in the state. We have ground that picked up 10 inches of rain in the month of June," he said during the evening wheat tour crop discussion, noting that the late spring combined with additional rains in May kept him from planting his wheat until May 10. "Our wheat looks great. We're trying to fill the fourth kernel per spikelet. Eyeball today would be a 65 bpa average if the heat doesn't get us.
"We need an inch of rain this week bad like everybody in this room," he continued. "If the heat doesn't get us and if we turn cooler, which we're supposed to, we could have some 85-bushel wheat. Now that's not what a farmer should be telling you, but everybody's been pretty doom and gloom in this room, and there's some good wheat pockets out there."
Neal Fisher, administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission, also attended the Day 2 wheat tour crop discussion. He noted that the Wheat Quality Council's tour provides a snapshot in time, one that can change as the growing season progresses.
"There's so much variability out there. Like last year, some fields are weeks behind right now," he said. "Last year, people were saying, 'That can't be harvested.' Well, it was because we had God's gift to get a long fall to allow that to happen. So, can that happen two years in a row? I don't know."
The third and final day of the 2023 Spring Wheat and Durum Tour takes place on Thursday, July 27. Scouts will assess fields in northeast North Dakota and some bordering Minnesota counties. The tour's final yield estimate and production projection will be released in the early afternoon during the wrap-up crop discussion at North Dakota State University.
DTN Crops Editor Jason Jenkins is participating on this year's tour. Look for more daily updates and final yield estimates on www.dtnpf.com and on Twitter.
Jason Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @JasonJenkinsDTN
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