Hard red winter wheat tour starts marks change from drought to floodAlmost nowhere in Kansas has escaped the challenges of this year's hard red winter wheat crop.
Extreme drought decimated fields in the northern tier of counties and in much of western Kansas. An extreme freeze event on Nov. 10 that saw temperatures plunge from 77 degrees to 2 below zero in a matter of 24 to 36 hours took out more. A late freeze on Easter morning hit south-central Kansas hard.
In mid-April, it began to rain in south-central Kansas. By the time the winter wheat tour rolled around at the first of May, rain was falling across the state.
In fact, participants arrived in Manhattan the night of May 4 in heavy rain that caused widespread street flooding. The tour dodged storms, one of which spawned a tornado that touched down northwest of Wichita as participants rolled into town at the end of Day 2.
The rain and storms have not stopped as of May 26. More than 11 inches of rain have been recorded in Wichita. Almost 9 inches had fallen in Dodge City and more than 6 inches were recorded at Garden City and Medicine Lodge.
Even the northwest and bone-dry west central regions got some moisture, with more six inches recorded in Goodland and more than 3 inches at Hill City.
For the winter wheat crop -- provided the rain stops and temperatures warm up as the crop matures, the cool, wet May has been a chance for a lot of healing and prospects harvest prospects overall have improved from where they were at the tour.
Here are some photos from the tour and a look at the conditions the tour participants saw.
BONE DRY: This thin, drought-stressed stand is typical of what winter wheat tour participants saw across much of Kansas.
LOOKING GOOD: This excellent stand in a Marion County field benefitted from rains that began a bit sooner. South central Kansas began getting rain in mid-April.
FOLIAR DISEASE: With wet and cool weather, diseases such as stripe rust made an immediate and, in some areas, deadly appearance. For some fields, it was already too late to spray with fungicide.
TRYING THE APP: Gang Guo, a first-time wheat tour participant representing Ardent Mills in Denver, uses an app from Kansas Wheat, to evaluate a field. Participants were asked to download the app and use it to get a comparison of its forecast, versus the low-tech method of counting tillers or heads. In the future, surveying a field might be as easy as snapping a cellphone photo and letting technology do the work.
FLOODED FIELDS: Even in western Kansas, water was standing in some fields and in the road ditches and along the edges of many more.
STORMY SUNRISE: This was the scene over a wheat field near Colby on the second day of the tour. Heavy rain fell overnight on Day 1 of the tour.
SERIOUSLY STORMY: This threatening cloud moved over as one of the tour cars, driven by Rick Horton of Horton Seed in Leoti, made a final stop near Wichita on Day 2 of the tour. The storm later spawned a tornado which touched down near Mount Hope.
TALKING AGRONMY: K-State wheat specialist emeritus Jim Shroyer talked about the agronomic problems facing the 2015 crop as the tour participants compared notes in Wichita at the end of Day 2.