Winter Wheat Tour - Day 2

A Wintry Mix of Yield Results

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Snow cover still remained in many parts of western Kansas. Rick Horton (left) and Brian Walker dig down to take a peek at what the wheat looks like beneath. (DTN Photo by Pamela Smith)

WICHITA, Kan. (DTN) -- The second day of the hard red winter wheat tour started in snow banks as they left Colby, but found some nice stands of wheat with more yield potential as scouts wound toward Wichita.

The average estimated yield for the day was 46.9 bushels per acre over 205 stops compared to a second-day average of 49.3 bpa last year and 34.5 bpa in 2015. The average yield estimate for the first two days of the tour is 44.9 bpa.

The day started off with scouts unable to evaluate many of the fields in the western third of the state because they were still covered by snow and badly lodged. About 70 scouts scattered between 18 routes with each route stopping every 15 miles or so to take a sample. The same routes are used each year to establish consistency.

Rick Horton, a wheat farmer from Leoti, dug into snow banks on his own farm to uncover what was a once lush wheat stand that a week ago would have had the potential to make 100 bushels per acre. It was a field he had been pushing for yield, but 18 inches of snow, winds and additional rain last night now have him hoping at least 50% of the yield potential remains. "We won't know for a couple of weeks which way this will go," he said.

Other scouts reported uncovering snow-packed wheat only to find 50% to 90% of the stems broken. Water was standing in most wheat rows after a Tuesday night rain joined the melting snow pack. Scout Jim Taylor, representing Tyson Foods, Springdale, Arkansas, said the fields reminded him of the rice fields back home. Scouts often found themselves in mud that would have been better with waders than Muck boots. They also soon found the goal was to grab samples and outrun the mosquitos.

Horton said many stands in the western third of the state were struggling before the weekend winter storm crippled the area. Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) hit the area hard and it started last fall with dry conditions and a small window for proper seeding. The wheat curl mite uses volunteer wheat as a green bridge to move into newly emerging wheat. Neighboring fields left untended can infest many acres and there are no rescue treatments, he noted.

East of Garden City, acres of fields had already been sprayed out (terminated) either as a result of acreage because insurance has zeroed it out due to WSMV or the wheat had poor stands because it was seeded into soils so dry that it didn't germinate until spring. With the soil water profile now completely saturated, some farmers appear ready to roll the dice by planting corn into those destroyed acres. That brings the question of how abandonment will factor into final acreage numbers, particularly since no one yet knows what will occur with freeze damage acres.

Several routes came up with eyeball estimates that were lower than yield estimate calculations derived from official tour formula. Lack of nitrogen was a common observation, but some farmers said that it might not be for lack of application. Until just recently, it was so dry in many of these fields that top-dressed wheat never took up the fertility that was applied, they claimed.

The top estimate of the day came from the one route that dips into Oklahoma. In Alfalfa County, there was a 103 bpa yield recorded. Snow-covered fields were not estimated during the tour tallies. The formula used to determine yield uses row space and counts the number of heads or stalks in one foot of row and it was impossible to judge the flattened wheat.

Scouts pulled an 89 bpa sample from Martin Kerschen's 169-acre field near Garden Plain. The farmer, who attended the nightly scout meeting in Wichita, said he was estimating it closer to 73 bpa, but wouldn't complain about the extra bushels if the weather sees fit to cooperate.

The tour wraps up in Manhattan on May 4. You can follow along with participants, tweeting results straight from the field using #wheattour17.

Pamela Smith can be reached at

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Pam Smith