Crop scouts participating in the annual Kansas winter wheat crop tour found high yield potential in fields they visited on Tuesday in northern and central Kansas, but also saw some disease issues.
Scouts on the tour, which is sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council, headed west form Manhattan Kansas by various routes to Colby, Kansas. Wheat fields in eastern Kansas were found to have ample moisture, according to Dow Jones News Service.
Scouts calculated an average yield estimate of 53.6 bushels per acres for 280 fields they surveyed on the first day of the tour. That is the highest yield estimate for the first day of the tour over the past 13 years, surpassing the 2005 level of 48.9 bushels and is well above last year’s first-day tour average of 40 bushels and the three-year average of 40.7 bushels.
Fields in eastern Kansas often showed signs of disease – either stripe-rust fungus or barley yellow dwarf mosaic virus – but the disease incidences became less common farther west and many fields had been sprayed with fungicides, scouts told Dow Jones.Scouts also saw less mature wheat fields as they moved west.
Some participants warned the tour's first-day yield estimate could be too optimistic. "I don't think that it'll turn out quite that great," said Dennis Metz, a participant in the crop tour who farms about 1,200 acres of wheat near Wichita, Kansas. "There's too many things that could happen" to reduce yields. Various factors could lower the crop's yield, including disease issues and stormy weather or hail in coming weeks.
"I'm kind of stunned and amazed at the estimates we got," Kansas State University agronomist Jim Shroyer told DTN news. Shroyer said he thinks the number is high this year because scouts are counting too many spikelets per head (some of the smaller spikelets won't actually make grain) or are choosing the largest heads, not an average head, in their counts. The largest head forms on the wheat plant's initial stem. It's the largest and the tallest head, making it an easy pick, but the not the best for figuring out an average, Shroyer said.
"It's hard not to count, particularly for newcomers, not to count the big heads," tour leader Ben Handcock said. The crop tour this year has a record 100 participants, up from 70 last year.
Field conditions started to dry out as the tour moved west on Tuesday and scouts said they expected to find drier soil conditions driving south on Wednesday. Areas with lower moisture levels will need timely rainfall to ensure wheat crops continue to develop well. The tour will put out a final yield estimate and a Kansas crop production number late on Thursday.