An early break from dormancy, late winter warmth and wind bringing early onset of leaf and stripe rust, late winter drought, a couple of freezes and then the wettest April on record with cooler than normal temperatures have challenged the 2016 hard red winter wheat crop.
Now Kansas is about to find out just where all those challenges have left the prospects for the crop as the Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour sets out from Manhattan on Tuesday to sample fields across the state.
Along several routes crisscrossing the state from Manhattan to Colby on Tuesday, Colby to Wichita on Wednesday and Wichita to Manhattan on Thursday, participants in the tour will fan out from vehicles to sample fields about every 15 to 20 miles.
They will be looking for the growth stage of the winter wheat crop in different regions, the health of the crop, signs of freeze damage and prevalence of disease.
The tour takes place the first week of May every year. This year, participants will find a crop that is two to three weeks ahead of normal, thanks to a much warmer than normal January and February that found the crop breaking dormancy in mid and late February. In many counties, wheat is already heading out.
A freeze on March 19 and 20 did considerable damage to primary tillers in many areas and another freeze a couple of weeks later caused more damage. Then came a much cooler and wetter April than normal, a weather circumstance that has allowed for significant development of secondary tillers.
However, in many parts of the state, the welcome rain at the beginning of the month turned to too much of a good thing, resulting in fields too muddy for corn planting and winter wheat fields under water.
Kansas Farmer editor P.J. Griekspoor will be on the tour. Watch for daily coverage on this website and updates on the Farm Progress Daily Facebook page as well as observations on Twitter.