The annual Wheat Quality Council Hard Red Winter Wheat Tour, scheduled for May 4-6, has been canceled due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
“I was holding on, hoping against hope that we would be getting back to normal and the tour could go on, but with the social distancing order continued through April 30 it was clearly just something we cannot do this year,” says WQC executive director Dave Green.
Green says he is not aware of any time the tour had been canceled since it began back in the late 1970s. Typically the tour draws more than 100 people from across the wheat industry, including millers, bakers, traders and researchers. Attendees are divided into teams of three or four to travel in cars on set routes across Kansas, making stops to sample wheat fields about every 20 miles.
Using a yield formula based on number of tillers in immature fields or number of heads in more mature fields, the teams arrive at an estimate of yield based on current conditions and examine the fields for signs of disease or insect pressure.
The tour gathers in Manhattan and travels to Colby on the first day, coming together to compare notes at the end of the day. The tour moves from Colby to Wichita on the second day, with another meeting to compile data. The final day is Wichita to Manhattan, where tour members gather to come up with a statewide prediction of the expected Kansas yield.
“The tour is something I have enjoyed doing over the years,” Green says. “And it’s typically a pretty good economic boost to bring in a hundred people from all over to travel across the state, buy gas, eat in local restaurants and stay in local motels. But this year. I don’t think Palco, Kansas is going to be really happy to see 100 strangers from all over coming into town just four days after a stay-at-home order.”
Green says that Kansas Wheat and WQC are looking into the possibility of doing some kind of “virtual” informational program around the originally scheduled time of the tour, but details have not yet been worked out to determine if that is practical.