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Scenes from #WheatTour23

Scout. Count. Estimate. It all came down to a 30 bushels-per-acre estimate for the 2023 wheat crop.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

May 19, 2023

6 Slides

The 2023 Wheat Quality Council’s Hard Winter Wheat Tour wrapped up May 18 with a final estimated yield of 178 million bushels for the Kansas wheat crop.

That’s 13 million bushels lower than the most recent USDA number of 191 million bushels, which was released May 1. The three-day average yield estimate across the tour routes was calculated at about 30 bushels per acre.

If realized, that would be the lowest Kansas wheat yield since 1957, says Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations for Kansas Wheat.

Weather affects crop

Drought, freeze damage and management techniques all played a role in this year’s wheat crop development. The tour observed the higher calculated estimates in the central third of the state, where drought wasn’t as severe. Yet, the wheat did exhibit some frost damage, according to car reports.

The western third of the state showed the extreme effects of the third year of drought on the wheat crop, with estimated yields in fields that could be measured under 10 bushels per acre all through the west, down to the southwest and south-central regions. Some counties will have more than 50%, upward of 60% or more abandoned acres, according to reports from insurance agents and farmers in the region.

On the third day, the tour stops between Wichita and Manhattan showed better potential, according to tour participants, who calculated that wheat along that route may average 44.1 bushels per acre.

An estimated 8.1 million acres were planted last fall in Kansas. The official tour projection for the Kansas harvest reflects that tour participants felt abandonment may be higher than normal at 26.75% across the state, according to Kansas Wheat.

Outlook uncertain, but not good

“The production number is the average of estimated predictions from tour participants who gathered information from 652 fields across the state,” according to Kansas Wheat. “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%.”

Harries reminded the tour that the tour captures a moment in time of the crop. There’s still three to six weeks until harvest, and there’s a lot that can happen to the crop between now and then. Still, the fact that there was wheat to measure in some of the most extreme drought conditions is a testament to the wheat breeding programs at the public and private level, he added.

The tour hosted 106 grain industry participants from 22 states, as well as Mexico, Canada and Colombia.

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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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