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Kansas Wheat Tour 2024 conducted

Participants on the northern routes of this year’s Hard Winter Wheat Tour saw some of the better-looking wheat that they’ve seen in years, while participants on the southern routes saw drought-stricken fields. They calculated yields based on head counts and number of spikelets in the heads; however, tour scouts saw stripe rust, wheat streak mosaic virus and freeze damage.

About 69 people from 19 states, traveled in 18 cars on six routes between Manhattan and Colby Tuesday, stopping at wheat fields every 15-20 miles along the routes, as part of the Wheat Quality Council’s 66th Annual Hard Winter Wheat Evaluation Tour.

About half the participants had not been on the tour before. They were shown how to take yield measurements from tour alumni, using the formula provided by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). This formula is based on 2014-2023 Kansas wheat objective yield data. Farmers can calculate their own field estimates using the same formula with instructions at

Every tour participant makes yield calculations at each stop based on three to four different area samplings per field. These individual estimates are averaged with the rest of their route mates, and eventually added to a formula that produces a final yield estimate for the areas along the routes. While yields tend to be the spotlight of the Wheat Quality Tour, the real benefit is the ability to network among the ‘grain chain.’ This tour gives Kansas farmers the chance to interact with and influence their customers around the globe, on the tour, as well as at the #wheattour24 hashtag.

Tuesday’s cars of wheat tour scouts made 206 stops at wheat fields across north central, central and northwest Kansas, and into southern counties in Nebraska. The calculated yield is based on what scouts saw at this point in time. A lot can happen between now and harvest. The calculated yield from all cars was 49.9 bushels per acre, which was above trendline yields and is representative of areas of the state that are not most impacted by drought conditions. Day 2 of the tour will travel through southwest and south central Kansas, areas that have missed out on any recent precipitation.

Statewide, based on May 1 conditions, Kansas’ 2024 winter wheat crop is forecast at 267.9 million bushels, up 66 million bushels from last year’s crop, according to NASS. Average yield is forecast at 38 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from last year. Acreage to be harvested for grain is estimated at 7.05 million acres, up from last year’s 5.75 million acres.

For the week ending May 12, 2024, Kansas winter wheat condition rated 13% very poor, 22% poor, 34% fair, 28% good and 3% excellent. Kansas winter wheat jointed was 97%, ahead of 84% last year and 89% for the five-year average. Headed was 73%, well ahead of 48% last year and 43% average. Coloring was 1%.

In addition to Kansas reports, scouts from Nebraska and Colorado met the group in Colby to give reports from their states.

Royce Schaneman from Nebraska Wheat Board reported that USDA estimates the Nebraska crop at 40.8 million bushels, which is up from 36.96 million bushels last year. Yield is estimated at 48 bushels per acre.

A report from Colorado estimated the crop at 72 million bushels, based on a yield of 44 bushels per acre and 2.1 million acres planted. This is lower than the May 1 USDA estimate of 81.4 million bushels, based on slightly higher abandonment. Last year’s production was 74.62 million bushels.

These estimates are for this year’s hard winter wheat crop during this current snapshot in time.

Wheat Tour 2024, Day 2

On Wednesday, 69 people on the Wheat Quality Council’s 2024 winter wheat tour made their way from Colby to Wichita, stopping in wheat fields along six different routes.

Wednesday’s wheat tour scouts made 216 stops at wheat fields across western, central and southern Kansas, and into northern counties in Oklahoma.

The calculated yield from all cars was 42.4 bushels per acre. Scouts were able to use the late season formula provided by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which includes counting wheat heads, number of spikelets and kernels per spikelet. The yield formula doesn’t take disease, pests or weed pressure into consideration.

Romulo Lollato said the theme of the day was variability, even within fields. Groups saw a lot of drought stress and freeze damage, with some fields already being destroyed. Not as much stripe rust or Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus were observed on Wednesday, compared to Tuesday, likely due to drought conditions.

Farmers in the area reported that combines will probably start rolling by June 1 in south central Kansas, about seven to ten days earlier than average. There wasn’t as much fungicide applied in the southern areas of Kansas because the stripe rust started coming on in a later growth stage.

“This year is a testament to the wheat breeders and researchers and the work they’ve done,” said Derek Sawyer, who farms near McPherson. “This year, everything has been stressed across the state, but we’re still looking at a decent crop.”

Dennis Schoenhals from Oklahoma Wheat Commission reported that the state’s production was estimated at 96.2 million bushels this year, up from 68.6 million bushels last year, according to USDA’s NASS. USDA/NASS estimates the Oklahoma crop will yield 37 bushels per acre, compared with 28 last year. Harvested acres are estimated at 2.6 million acres. A tour of agronomists and others in the industry estimated the production slightly lower than the NASS estimate, at 89.3 million bushels and a yield of 33 bushels per acre. He said the Oklahoma wheat crop had good moisture through the end of January, but then they had an 83 day flash drought, which took the top end of the crop. He said it has had good, cool grainfill weather.

Wheat Tour 24 continued Thursday with six routes between Wichita and Manhattan. Follow along with the tour at #wheattour24. A final production estimate was announced Thursday afternoon.