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Wheat Tour wraps up

Kansas tour pegs the estimated yield potential at 290.4 million bushels.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

May 20, 2024

4 Min Read
Seated audience listening to speaker Romulo Lollato
FINAL STOP: Romulo Lollato, K-State wheat and forages Extension specialist, wraps up the status of the Kansas wheat crop on the last stop of the Wheat Quality Council’s Hard Winter Wheat Tour, May 16, at the International Grains Program in Manhattan.Jennifer M. Latzke

There’s wheat out there in Kansas fields, but if it’s going to make it to harvest, Mother Nature needs to start playing nicer than she has been, say Kansas wheat experts. Kansas needs some rain if the crop is going to reach the 2024 Hard Winter Wheat Tour estimated yield potential of 290.4 million bushels.

The 2024 Wheat Quality Council’s annual Hard Winter Wheat Tour was May 13-16. This annual trek across Kansas, saw 70 participants from 19 states — 50 of whom had never been on the tour before.

What did they observe as they measured wheat fields? Well, according to Romulo Lollato, Kansas State University wheat and forages Extension specialist, variability was the name of the game this year. The crop across the state faced some sort of stress from Mother Nature, including freeze damage from a late-spring freeze, drought stress from lack of spring rains in some parts, and stripe rust blowing in right up to the deadline to spray fungicide.

Each year the tour takes a snapshot of yield potential in time, and a lot is riding on the weather to get the crop to that 290.4 million-bushel estimate. Lollato told the tour that if Kansas gets cool and wet weather during grain-fill period, it may end up with a crop in the range of 40 bushels per acre. But he told Kansas Wheat he believes the 46.5-bushel-per-acre yield estimate of the tour may be on the high end.

See the individual Wheat Tour daily reports:

2024 Wheat Tour, Rice County, Kan.

2024 Wheat Tour, Day 2 shows effects of rain

2024 Wheat Tour, stripe rust starting to pop in northwest fields

2024 Wheat Tour, Day 2, Caldwell, Kan.

Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations for Kansas Wheat, says this year’s tour estimate is bigger than last year’s estimate by a considerable amount. The 2023 crop faced much harsher drought conditions through its life cycle. Whereas this 2024 crop had some good moisture in the fall as farmers were drilling it in, and winter moisture helped it as well.

The tour estimate of 46.5 bushels per acre is a little higher than USDA’s May 1 crop estimate, Harries says. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service forecasted the Kansas crop at 267.9 million bushels, up 66 million bushels from 2023. That puts the average yield across the state at 38 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from last year.

“Our number is a little higher than USDA’s 267 million bushels, but they collect their data a little bit earlier than we do and there’s been some rainfall in parts of the state since then, so I feel pretty good about this,” Harries says.

Harries says it’s a testament to Kansas public and private wheat breeders that there’s wheat out there in fields despite all the challenges this crop has faced.

Surrounding states

The tour also collects crop reports from the surrounding states and has routes that go into Nebraska and Oklahoma to report on the hard winter wheat conditions.

Royce Schaneman from the Nebraska Wheat Board reported that Nebraska farmers planted 1.04 million acres of wheat. Nebraska wheat farmers estimate they may average 48 bushels per acre, which would bring about a 40.8 million-bushel wheat crop, which is up from last year’s 36.96 million-bushel crop.

Colorado Wheat’s recent tour of its crop resulted in an estimated 72 million bushels at harvest, based on an average yield of 44 bushels per acre on 2.1 million acres planted. USDA’s May 1 estimate has the crop yielding 81.4 million bushels, based on more abandonment. The 2023 crop brought a total of 74.62 million bushels, according to USDA.

In Oklahoma, farmers planted 4.35 million acres of wheat, according to USDA NASS, and as of its May 1 report, it estimated that the crop would come in at 96.2 million bushels. That would be up from the 68.6 million bushels produced in 2023. However, according to Dennis Schoenhals of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, farmers and agronomists are estimating an average of 33.68 bushels per acre. That’s mostly due to an 83-day “flash drought” that took the top end of the crop. There was good moisture through the end of January, he told the tour, but that dry spell took the potential. Now, Oklahoma is experiencing cool grain-fill weather, and there’s still hope farmers may reach the farmer estimate of 89.27 million bushels.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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