ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- The Wheat Quality Council's Hard Red Spring and Durum Wheat Tour ended Thursday with an estimated average spring wheat yield of 41.1 bushels per acre (bpa), above 38.1 bpa last year, but below the five-year average of 45.4 bpa.
In total, the tour visited 342 spring wheat and durum fields, and the all-wheat average also landed at 41.1 bpa. Durum fields alone averaged 39.3 bpa, slightly below 39.7 bpa last year.
Last year, the tour visited 496 wheat fields and found a drought-stricken crop with an all-wheat average of just 38.4 bpa. This year, scouts expected a bin-buster wheat crop, based on USDA crop predictions and weekly crop condition ratings, tour organizer Dave Green said. Instead, they found a variable wheat crop with below-average yield potential.
"Everybody was a little disconcerted -- but that's why we do this," he said. "That's why we go out into the field."
On the final day of the tour, scouts spent the morning examining fields in the northeast corner of North Dakota, as well as the northwestern edge of Minnesota. Fields were in better shape in this region compared to the past two days of the tour, Green said.
"We finally saw some better wheat today," he said. "Better temperatures and a little better moisture." Wheat fields on his route had estimated yields in the 50s and 60s and were two to three weeks from harvest, he said.
The higher-quality fields on the third day still weren't numerous enough to push the tour's final estimated yield up above -- or even near -- average, Green added. The short wheat fields with below-average yield were simply too numerous in the first two days.
A number of factors likely played a role in the sub-par crop the tour uncovered this week, said Jim Peterson, policy and marketing director for the North Dakota Wheat Commission.
To begin with, many fields hadn't quite recovered from last year's drought conditions. "Because we drew down subsoil moisture levels quite a bit last year, some of the crop was planted into pretty dry soil," Peterson said.
Although the Dakotas did see more normal rainfall amounts this year, they were often spotty and extremely heavy, he said. "We did get beneficial moisture in June, but not the nice, two-day soakers that are typical and that help even out the crop," he said.
The region also saw a hotter-than-average June, which can be tough on wheat, which is fundamentally "a cool-season crop," Peterson said. Finally, producers facing low prices in June had to make tough decisions on fungicide applications -- and many may have opted out, he added.
You can see the results of past wheat tours by the Wheat Quality Council here: http://www.wheatqualitycouncil.org/….
Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.firstname.lastname@example.org
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