Winter Wheat Tour - Day 1

Wheat Fields in Kansas Come Up Dry

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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Winter wheat fields in Rice County, Kansas, examined by scouts on Tuesday were showing signs of severe drought in both the soil and the plants. This field also had freeze damage and some wheat streak mosaic, which will cause yield loss. (DTN photo by Mary Kennedy)

COLBY, Kan. (DTN) -- Day one of the Wheat Quality Council's Winter Wheat Tour led scouts to a variety of conditions, but the majority of the Kansas fields were found to exhibit drought stress.

The crop tour measures the potential of the crop. For the first day, a total of 24 cars of scouts made 317 stops at wheat fields across north-central, central and northwest Kansas, and into southern counties in Nebraska. The calculated yield from all cars was 38.2 bushels per acre, but at the Tuesday evening wrap-up meeting, tour scouts indicated that this calculation is likely high given how delayed the crop appeared.

As participants pulled samples and looked for evidence of yield potential, they also had the chance to talk to farmers along the way.


Paul Penner of Hillsboro, Kansas, has wheat fields planted in Marion County. "We had moisture when we planted it, so stands look good, but we are two to three weeks behind in development," he said. "I don't expect to harvest until maybe June 20 and it could even be early July."

In some counties, the drought stress was more severe with much of the topsoil moisture rated short. There was also freeze damage observed by at least one of the routes, along with wheat streak mosaic.

Doug Keesling, a farmer from Chase, Kansas, said the freeze damage is not just cosmetic. "There will be yield loss. We are also seeing signs of wheat streak mosaic showing up. This area has only had 1.6 inches of rain since it was planted," Keesling said.

Kansas State University agronomists told scouts that northwest Kansas appears to have a good chance of decent yields. On the other hand, parts of south-central Kansas appear to have been hit hardest by freeze damage -- up to 35%.

There was talk of some fields being grazed and some sprayed out. One group of scouts said they spoke to a farmer who was told by his crop adjuster that his current yield was 12 to 15 bpa. They also noted that the farmer said he will hold on to the crop for now but plans to destroy it if it deteriorates to 10 bpa or less. Economics may drive some farmers to spray fields out and maybe plant corn or a cover crop to protect the soil.


Weather is always a wild card in wheat country. When will it rain and how much? Or will heat come and cause more damage to an already fragile crop? Hail -- the white combine -- is always a worry. This crop has to cram a lot of growth into a short time frame to make it.

In addition, scouts from Nebraska and Colorado met the group in Colby to give reports. The estimate for the Nebraska wheat crop is 43.7 million bushels, down from 46.92 million bushels last year. The estimated yield average is 43 bushels per acre. In Colorado, the estimated yield was only 35 bushels per acre. Production in Colorado is estimated at 70 million bushels, down from 86.9 million bushels last year.

The scouts' reports are just a snapshot of where this wheat crop is today. It already has at least two strikes against it in that it is so far behind development. Time will tell if this crop can find another life. It appears it has already used its allotted nine.

The tour continues Wednesday with six routes between Colby and Wichita, Kansas.


Editor's note: DTN will be tweeting and also posting nightly summaries of the winter wheat tour. Readers can follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter at @MaryCKenn and also @dtnpf #wheattour18.

Mary Kennedy can be reached at


Mary Kennedy

Mary Kennedy
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