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2009 Wheat Quality Council completes hard spring wheat, durum tour

The Wheat Quality Council hard spring and durum tour was conducted July 27 to 30 in North Dakota plus parts of South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. There were 55 participants this year, and 34 of them were first-timers on this tour.

The 402 spring wheat fields surveyed averaged 46.2 bushels per acre, up 8.5 bushels from last year's 37.7 bushels. The 35 durum fields averaged 36.2 bushels, up from 23.7 bushels last year. We evaluated 21 hard winter fields and they averaged 51.3 bushels, up from 43 one year ago.

The average for all 458 field stops was 45.7 bushels per acre compared to 36 last year and the five year average of 35.3 bushels.

Day One covered the southern half of North Dakota, southwestern Minnesota and northeast/north central South Dakota. Yields were good on all routes this year. The highest yielding field was estimated at 88 bushels and the lowest was 15.6, with a day one average of 45.9 bushels versus last year at 38.2 bushels. Tour members going into the far western areas reported the same kinds of yields as the cars elsewhere. This almost never happens, and western producers are finally getting a long-awaited fine crop.

Day Two covered northwest and north central North Dakota plus a small delegation toward the Montana border and beyond to look for additional durum fields. We did find more durum fields in the far northwest, but the durum acres appeared to be down wherever we went. The yields were impressive again as we moved along the routes. We had a high for the day of 74 bushels, a low of 22 with a day two average of 43.5 bushels. Last year these routes averaged 31.2 bushels. Keep in mind that we modified a couple of routes and went much farther northwest than we used to go.

Day Three concluded the tour by covering north central/north east North Dakota and north west/west central Minnesota. As is usually the case, this was the highest yielding area of the tour, but not by much. The day three average was estimated at 49.7 bushels, compared to 42.9 one year ago. Our high was 75.7 and our low was 25.8 bushels per acre.

This is the best potential crop I have witnessed since starting to do this tour in 1992. In fact, 1992 calculated at 44 bushels per acre, and that was our highest ever until this year. Again I emphasize the word "potential."

This is a tremendous crop with very little problems anyplace as far as disease or pests are concerned. The burning question is--"Will we get it all harvested before the short fall season sets in?"--A large portion of the crop is four to six weeks away. That approaches the mid September date in some cases. That may be just fine, but the days get very short by then, with harvesting possible for only a few hours a day from after noon until early evening. Producers say this has happened before, but it makes them nervous all the same.

We really saw little potential difference in this crop from East to West or North to South. I can't remember when that has been the case previously. I predict that we have probably underestimated this crop due to the number of berries in the spikelets. The formula we use is not set up to predict the three and four berries I saw in a lot of fields.

If we get all of this crop harvested, I believe the quality will be very good, with an obvious chance of lower than desired protein content. The industry would like 14 to 14.5 percent protein, but it most likely will be at least one percent less than that. Industry veterans said the large 1992 crop came in around 13 percent. It appears there could be pockets of higher protein, so I think this crop will probably be very manageable by the processors.

Once again our results are not official. The North Dakota Ag Statistics Service will publish official results next week. Watch for them and see how we compare. We have been very close for the past ten years or so. We are not as scientific as they are, we simply overwhelm them with the number of fields we visit, and our formula provided by NDSU has been working very well.

Thanks to all of you who came, drove cars or helped in any way to make this tour a success. The newcomers have told me they learned a great deal, had a lot of fun and would love to do it again. We look forward to 2010.

Please mark the Wheat Quality Council 2010 Annual Meeting dates on your calendar. It should be interesting evaluating all the new wheat lines grown under these conditions. The dates are Feb. 16 to 18 at the Embassy Suites in Kansas City.

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