The 2014 Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour kicked off this morning, with 20 groups driving six different routes across Kansas, and parts of Nebraska, Colorado, and Oklahoma in the next few days to evaluate the 2014 hard red winter wheat crop.
This year, notes Senior Syngenta Fellow Dr. Rollin Sears, everything is about two weeks behind. "In the Great Plains, I think the definition of normal is the average of abnormal years," Sears says.
The tour will finish its first day in Colby, in the northwest part of Kansas, after traveling through the central and north central region.
In the north central part of the state, winterkill will likely be the biggest cause for concern after a hard freeze in November 2013 followed by a prolonged winter. "In [the north central] region, there is probably more winterkill than we've seen in many years," Sears says.
Biggest problem is drought
However, to the west and south, drought is the biggest issue, adds Mark Hodges, executive director of Plains Grains, a private, nonprofit wheat marketing organization in Stillwater, Oklahoma. "The freeze damage pales in comparison to what the drought has done," he says. Much of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, and parts of southern and western Kansas are categorized in D3 or D4, or extreme and exceptional drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor as of April 24.
Sears adds because these conditions are so extreme, disease isn't a concern. "You will not see any stripe rust, and it's been too cold to see wheat streak (mosaic)," he says. "The total disease spectrum you'll see in the wheat crop is probably few and far between."
In many parts of southern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, where the wheat crop is more advanced, there is less time to put on tillers and make up for those lost to drought stress. "We're late enough in plant developmental stages in Oklahoma and Texas that any tillers coming on are just going to be too late (to add potential to the crop)," Hodges says, adding cool weather and adequate moisture will preserve what potential is there. "The further north you go, the more time you have before those plants reach maturity, so if they put on tillers, there is opportunity."