Kansas Farmer Logo

‘Variability’ word of the day for #WheatTour23

The yield estimate for Day 1 of Kansas tour is 29.8 bushels per acre over 318 stops.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

May 17, 2023

4 Min Read
Kansas Wheat Vice President Aaron Harries in field
MEASURING UP: Aaron Harries, Kansas Wheat vice president of research, explains the tour’s measuring process at a field just outside of Abilene along the Black Route to Elizabeth Choppie with Smuckers and Andrew Ziller with Scoular.Photos by Jennifer M. Latzke

Drought. Freeze damage. Short wheat. Smaller wheat heads. The car reports from Day 1 of the Wheat Quality Council’s Winter Wheat Tour on May 16 did not bring a lot of bright news.

But then again, that was to be expected, according to Romulo Lollato, Extension wheat specialist at Kansas State University.

This year, a total of 28 cars traveled their assigned routes through Kansas from Manhattan to Colby, making 318 stops, with a Day 1 average potential yield of 29.8 bushels per acre.

This is the third straight year of drought affecting Kansas, and the numbers reflect that from the tour. In 2022, the average predicted yield was 39.5 bushels per acre, and in 2021, it was a 59.2 bushels. If you overlay the U.S. Drought Monitor Map over the tour routes, you can almost see where the poorer wheat starts on the trails from east to west.

closeup of damaged wheat heads from a freeze

Nebraska and Colorado

The tour heard from Royce Schaneman, executive director of the Nebraska Wheat Board. Nebraska farmers conducted a similar crop scouting tour from the southeast corner to the northwest corner of the state. Here is what they found:

  • 1.11 million acres planted

  • 10% abandonment

  • 29.6-bushel-per-acre estimated yield

  • 30 million-bushel wheat crop

Schaneman said producers are seeing similar drought effects, with short wheat of about 6 to 8 inches tall in the southeast. That may be where the majority of the abandoned acres will be located, he said. However, in the southern panhandle, farmers saw more than 50 inches of snow this winter, and they’re doing good for subsoil moisture, he said.

wheat field with freeze damage

Southeast Colorado suffered under drought conditions similar to southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Colorado reports shape up like this:

  • 2.25 million acres planted

  • 70% abandonment in southeast region

  • 4% abandonment in northeast region

  • 32-bushel-per-acre estimated yield

  • 54 million-bushel wheat crop

Western Kansas

Jeanne Falk-Jones, K-State agronomist out of the Northwest Research Extension Center in Colby, updated the tour on what participants may see on Day 2 as they travel across the western counties of the state.

“In northwest Kansas, you saw a lot of variable stands,” she said, adding that some wheat didn’t emerge after planting in the fall, and only emerged in late March and early April after snowmelt this spring. She also told the tour to expect winterkill and winter injury in the fields that do have wheat.

With the extremely dry conditions this winter, Falk-Jones said the tour will see some fields with tillage passes, which were done to keep the no-till field from blowing during high winds this winter.

If there’s a bright spot, it’s that the dry conditions mean no rust pressure, no disease pressure, and very little pest pressure other than some mites. However, the thin stands mean that rains between now and harvest could result in a flush of weeds that will further slow down harvest.

Farmer thoughts

Tour participants reported the better wheat of the day started around Manhattan in Riley County and continued to about the region of Dickinson and Marion counties. Paul Penner, wheat farmer near Hillsboro, Kan., farms right along the Black Route off of Highway 15.

Penner showed his field of Zenda wheat near his house and remarked that until the recent rains this week, he had very little hope for the crop. The rain, though, allowed the wheat to grow taller and progress through the boot stage to heading. The tour estimated his field might reach 45 bushels per acre if nothing happens in the next 40 days or so to harvest.

wheat farmer Paul Penner

And that’s the challenge of this giant crop scouting tour — these yield estimates are just estimates according to a yield formula developed by USDA. A lot of the crop’s potential depends on what Mother Nature throws her way between now and the combine.

closeup of boots in a wheat field

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.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like