Day One of the Virtual Wheat Tour, May 19, focused on reports out of north central and northwest Kansas, as well as from Colorado and Nebraska.

Crop numbers

Aaron Harries, vice president of Research and Operations for Kansas Wheat, moderated the 4 p.m. update. He reminded viewers that crop scouting reports were being submitted by Kansas Certified Crop Advisors, Kansas State Research and Extension personnel, and members of the Kansas Wheat Board who had volunteered their time.

These reports came up for a yield range in North Central Kansas of 25.6 to 59.4 bushels per acre, for an average of 41.1 bushels per acre. The yield range in northwest Kansas was from 20 to 117 bushels per acre, for an average of 51.7 bushels per acre. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service has the Kansas average pegged at 47 bushels per acre, as of its last report.

Harries said with the drought worsening in the western part of the state, some fields are already being abandoned, and that will also play a part in the overall state yield estimate.

K-State Wheat and Forage Extension Specialist Romulo Lollato reported from the field where he was scouting. He did the first leg of the tour, which crosses north central and northwest Kansas. He said he scouted a wide variety of fields and saw yield estimates ranging from 17 bushels per acre to 72 bushels per acre, for an average of 42 bushels per acre. That is considerably lower than where we were just last year, he said.

The farther west you travel from Cloud and Clay counties, you see lower yield potential, Lollato said. In the northwest part of the region, he said he saw a huge difference in the wheat crops that were planted late after soybeans. These fields had little development going into winter and were hit harder by the spring freeze events.

Overall drought and freeze effects were the theme of the day’s scouting. He said he also saw some tan spot and barley yellow dwarf in fields.

“Overall, it’s a combination of drought and freeze damage,” Lollato explained. “But drought is taking a bigger toll on the crop than the freeze did.”

NW Kansas crop report

Jeanne Falk Jones, multi-county specialist at the Northwest Research-Extension Center, Colby, Kansas, said variability is the main takeaway from the northwest Kansas crop report this year.

Wheat stands this spring can really trace their variability and conditions back to management decisions for tillage and weed control. There wasn’t a great deal of fall growth on a lot of this wheat, and pretty poor root development in general, she said. That didn’t give the wheat a solid place to start when drought and then two April freeze events came calling.

The first freeze event April 3 saw wheat that had the growth point just below the soil surface, so it only burned the tips of leaves, she explained. But the second cold event, which happened about Easter, saw the temperature falling and staying cold for a significant time, which hit right as the growth stage was just peaking out above the soil surface. Necrotic leaves, brown tillers, lost tillers and dead growth points were the result.

Recent rains, though, have given wheat a chance to show some regrowth in spots, and that may help the crop.

Nebraska and Colorado wheat reports

Nebraska Wheat Board Executive Director Royce Schaneman gave an update on his state’s wheat crop from scouting done last week.

Marking a path from the northern Panhandle to the southern Panhandle to southern Nebraska, the crop was either planted on time or delayed by fall rains. Later planted wheat emerged later and had less growth going into winter dormancy.

From south central Nebraska to southeast Nebraska, the rains delayed planting on into mid-October the farther east you travel.

Drought is a concern for the southeast part of the state, which is typically the wetter region, he said. The majority of the state is in the boot stage, and parts of south central Nebraska are in jointing.

Schaneman said scouting reports saw yield estimates ranging from highs of 70 bushels per acre to lows of 30 bushels per acre just in the southern Panhandle. The averages ranged in the mid-50s to low-60s range across the various districts. The average yield the contributors reported was 50.88 bushels per acre.

“Some producers said some of the tillers they found did not look quite so viable,” he said. “The crop is a little behind and very short this year. It was set back with some of those later freeze events. If we really get down to it, though, I’d say we’re probably at just over 41 million bushels for the crop, and if you split the difference from the NASS estimate, 41.5 million bushels produced this year.”

Brad Erker, executive director for the Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee, reported that in southeast Colorado, the drought is very pronounced and eases as you travel up through the east central and then northeast districts.

“The story for us is the drought,” he said. “We have some D2 and D3 drought ratings in southeast Colorado, which affected us starting in the fall and now through the spring. The crop condition over the spring has steadily declined since late March. It just didn’t have enough precipitation to develop. It improves as you go north, and most of our better wheat is up north.”

Erker estimated that in the southeast district 25% of the acres will be abandoned, taking the estimate of harvested acres to just about 205,000. And from the acres that are kept, yields are estimated at just 15 bushels per acre, for a harvest total of about 3.2 million bushels this year.

In the east central portion of the state, the yield estimate was a little better at 42.3 bushels per acre, with a high point of 57 bushels in Yuma County and a low of 20 bushels in Kit Carson county, he said. A weighted estimate pegged the crop in that district at about 39.7 million bushels.

“If you look at our Brandon test plot, all the wheat is pretty short, not any above knee high,” Erker said. Yuma saw better rains and therefore more tillering and more potential.

The northeast district is just now starting to see some abandoned acres, mostly due to wheat stem sawfly more than drought. Average estimate for the region is about 52.9 bushels per acre, which differs from the NASS estimate of 37 bushels per acre. Still, the region might see 10 million bushels, Erker said.

Combined these three major wheat producing districts with the rest of the state and Erker said they’re estimating that the Colorado crop could be 54.2 million bushels, which is more than what NASS reported in last week’s update.

Day 2 of the Virtual Wheat Tour will cover the west central and southwest regions of Kansas, Harries said. To register, visit

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or

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