The 2014 Hard Red Winter Wheat Tour met 40 mile-per-hour wind mixed with 40-degree temperatures as the 20 car groups rolled into the western third of Kansas, wrapping up the first day of the tour in Colby.
For Monday, the tour found an estimated average of 34.7 bushels per acre for the 271 stops in various wheat fields in the central, north-central, and northwest regions of Kansas.
The day's averages for individual groups ranged from an estimated 30 bushels per acre to just below 40, with highs reaching the mid-50s at several stops, and estimates at a few stops as low as 17 or 18 bushels per acre.
So far, compared to last year's tour, yield estimates have been more consistent, but have averaged lower. The first day of the 2013 Wheat Tour saw an estimated average of 43.8 bushels per acre, but with high estimates in the low 70s, and some estimates in the single digits.
Last year, the central corridor of the state saw the highest yields of the tour. However, this year, the tour hasn't seen a significant increase in yields in the central part of Kansas.
Onward to Wichita
Today, the tour will travel through parts of western and southwestern Kansas, some groups venturing further south into the Oklahoma panhandle, before finishing the second day in Wichita. So far in the northwest part of the state, soil moisture has been noticeably lower than in the central region, and yields have also decreased.
Jeanne Falk-Jones, agronomy specialist for the Kansas State University Sunflower Extension District in Cheyenne, Sherman, and Wallace Counties, says the situation will decline the further south and west the tour goes – most of the western two tiers of counties in Kansas are in D3, or extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
However, the recent cool weather has been beneficial for the wheat crop in the northwest region, Falk-Jones notes. "The cool weather is buying us some time," she explains. "With this cool weather, wheat is growing, but not at a rapid pace. It isn't racing to put on wheat kernels before it's ready to do so."
Much of the Kansas wheat crop is behind schedule, but a small percentage is heading out with shorter stalks, indicating the plant is rushing maturity due to heat stress, resulting in smaller heads and decreasing yield potential.
Of course, if the crop heads out later, when it's ready, it has more stalk residue, which is helpful in determining available soil moisture for the following crop and holding the soil when hit with winds like those the tour experienced Monday. "Thankfully, we have a wheat stand," Falk-Jones says. "If we didn't, the amount of topsoil moving would be really concerning."