The 2023 Wheat Quality Council’s Hard Winter Wheat Tour across Kansas wrapped up on May 18. During the three days of wheat scouting, tour participants traveled six routes from Manhattan to Colby to Wichita and back to Manhattan. This year’s tour hosted 106 people from 22 U.S. states plus Mexico, Canada and Colombia, in 27 vehicles while traveling across the state.
The three-day average calculated yield for the fields that will be harvested was 30 bushels per acre.
While an estimated 8.1 million acres of wheat were planted in the fall, the Kansas wheat crop has suffered from a multi-year drought, which has robbed the state’s yield potential and resulted in many abandoned fields. The scouts are suggesting that the final harvested acres number may be around 5.9 million acres, well under the 6.6 million acres that USDA predicted would be harvested in their May Crop Production report.
The official tour projection for total production of wheat to be harvested in Kansas is 178 million bushels, indicating that tour participants thought abandonment might be quite a bit higher than normal at 26.75%. The production number is the average of estimated predictions from tour participants who gathered information from 652 fields across the state. Based on May 1 conditions, NASS predicted the crop to be higher at 191 million bushels, with a yield of 29 bushels per acre and abandonment at 18.5%. This yield estimate is only for the fields that will make it to harvest, and does not account for the large amount of abandoned fields that were seen.
On Thursday, yields in areas between Wichita and Manhattan were better than what participants had seen earlier on the tour, improving as they moved north, averaging 44.1 bushels per acre.
For fields that have not yet headed out, scouts use an early season formula model to calculate the potential yield of the fields. The model uses an average head weight based on 2013-2022 Kansas wheat objective yield data. For the fields that had already headed, attendees were able to use a late-season formula to calculate yields, based on number of wheat heads, number of spikelets and kernels per spikelet. These formulas are provided by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The formulas do not take into consideration variables such as weed pressure, disease and pests. Tour scouts didn’t see much disease pressure this year with the drought conditions.
On Wednesday, Mike Schulte from Oklahoma Wheat Commission actually had multiple numbers to share with the scouts gathered in Wichita- Two of those numbers came from the May 2nd report session at the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association- click here for our coverage from May second– those numbers were 54.3 million bushels seen by the district by district reports and 40.7 million bushels guestimated by the members of the Grain and Feed Association in downtown OKC that morning. He also reported on the USDA estimate of last week showing 49.9 million bushels, with about 2.2 million acres of wheat harvested out of 4.6 million acres planted. USDA estimated yield of 23 bushels per acre. Schulte told the Wichita meeting that the USDA number of 49 million bushels seems to be right on target at this point as we near the harvest of the 2023 crop. Schulte reported the four largest wheat producing counties in Oklahoma are looking very rough, extremely dry. They did not receive enough moisture, and many farmers are cutting their wheat for hay.
The tour captures a moment in time for the yield potential for fields across the state. These fields are still 3-6 weeks from harvest. A lot can happen during that time to affect final yields and production.