Posted May 18, 2021
About 45 people from 13 U.S. states traveled on six routes between Manhattan and Colby, Kan., Tuesday, stopping at wheat fields every 15-20 miles along the routes, as part of the Wheat Quality Council’s 63rd Annual Hard Winter Wheat Evaluation Tour. This year’s wheat tour was held in person after last year’s virtual tour.
Nearly half the participants had not been on the tour before. They were shown how to take yield measurements from tour alumni, using the formula provided by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). This formula is based on 2011-2020 Kansas wheat objective yield data. Farmers can calculate their own field estimates using the same formula with instructions at kswheat.com.
Many tour participants had never stepped foot in a wheat field before and had only seen these Kansas plains from the window seat of passing airplane. These are the millers, bakers, food processors and traders who buy the wheat that Kansas farmers grow. If these fields make it to harvest, the resulting crop will go into breads, but also a number of other food items, from snack cakes to donuts.
Every tour participant makes yield calculations at each stop based on three different area samplings per field. These individual estimates are averaged with the rest of their route mates, and eventually added to a formula that produces a final yield estimate for the areas along the routes. While yields tend to be the spotlight of the Wheat Quality Tour, the real benefit is the ability to network among the ‘grain chain.’ This tour gives Kansas farmers the chance to interact with and influence their customers around the globe, on the tour, as well as at the #wheattour21 hashtag.
Tuesday’s cars of wheat tour scouts made 171 stops at wheat fields across north central, central and northwest Kansas, and into southern counties in Nebraska. The calculated yield is based on what scouts saw at this point in time. The crop is behind schedule in terms of development, and a lot can happen between now and harvest. The calculated yield from all cars was 59.2 bushels per acre, which was 12.3 bushels higher than the yield of 46.9 bushels per acre from the same routes in 2019.
Statewide, based on May 1 conditions, Kansas' 2021 winter wheat crop is forecast at 331 million bushels, up 18 percent from last year's crop, according to NASS. Average yield is forecast at 48 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from last year. Acreage to be harvested for grain is estimated at 6.90 million acres, up 650,000 acres from last year. This would be 95% of the planted acres, below last year's 96% harvested.
For the week ending May 16, 2021, Kansas winter wheat condition rated 4% very poor, 11% poor, 31% fair, 45% good and 9% excellent. Kansas winter wheat jointed was 96%, near 93% last year. Headed was 58%, equal to last year, and behind 68% for the five-year average.
In addition, scouts from Nebraska and Colorado met the group in Colby, Kansas, to give reports from their states. Sarah Ahrens, Agriculture Promotion Coordinator for the Nebraska Wheat Board, reported the estimate for the Nebraska wheat crop is 36.7 million bushels, up 8% from last year. The estimated yield average is 47 bushels per acre.
Brad Erker, executive director of Colorado Wheat, submitted a written report. “The Colorado crop is estimated at 64.5 million bushels, based on 2.05 million acres planted and a 15.5% abandonment rate, leaving 1.73 million acres to be harvested. Our estimate is for an average of 37.3 bushels per acre across the state. County averages range from 15 to 53 bushels per acre, with conditions gradually increasing as you move North and East.” NASS estimates the Colorado crop slightly lower at 57.8 million bushels, 17.1% abandonment and 34.0 bushel per acre average yield.
This year, the evening crop discussions are being livestreamed on Kansas Wheat’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/KansasWheat. This gives members of the industry, including international buyers who weren’t able to travel to Kansas for the tour, an opportunity to get a look at this year’s hard winter wheat crop during this current snapshot in time.
Wheat Tour 21 continues Wednesday with six routes between Colby and Wichita, Kansas.