Wheat tour leads to sharply lower 2018-19 expectations

Oklahoma harvested area expected to be 44% lower than last year.

May 4, 2018

3 Min Read
Wheat tour leads to sharply lower 2018-19 expectations

The Wheat Quality Council's Hard Red Wheat (HRW) Tour recently conducted an early survey of the new crop. Participants gathered in Manhattan, Kan., and for two-and-a-half days, small teams randomly stopped at 14 or more fields along the same routes that have been followed for many years during the annual event.

Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, U.S. Wheat Associates market analyst who participated in the tour, said the teams measure yield potential, determine an average for the route and estimate a cumulative average for the day when all of the scouts come together in the evening.

“Last year, tour participants faced snow and muddy fields. This year, the snow is a distant memory, as fields on days one and two were all bone dry,” she said, adding that a violent storm did roll through central Kansas on day two, which cut some scouting short. However, she added that the storm brought much-needed moisture to the wheat fields.

After 644 scouting stops, the tour estimated a final average yield potential of 37.0 bu. per acre (bpa), or about 2.49 metric tons per hectare for the 2018-19 Kansas HRW crop. Combining seeded area with per-acre yield potential, Bryant-Erdmann said the total production potential estimate was 243.0 million bu. (6.61 million mt). Last year’s total production estimate was 282 million bu. (7.67 mmt).

On the first day, the tour traveled from Manhattan along several routes covering most northern Kansas counties.

“We saw very short wheat that was two to four weeks behind developmentally. Fields were very dry, which has prevented disease establishment but threatens yield potential,” Bryant-Erdmann saidd.

On the second day, the tour traveled on routes that led from the city of Colby to Wichita, Kan., and made 284 stops.

“The number of observations was up significantly from last year due to much better field conditions this year, though severe weather, including tornadoes and hail, did cut some scouting short. Scouts reported most wheat was one to two weeks behind normal development, but continued to see very little disease pressure,” she said.

Participants received a crop report from Nebraska and also from Oklahoma, where drought conditions have severely affected the panhandle of the state, which received less than 0.1 in. of rain between September and mid-February. The estimated average yield in Oklahoma is 24.8 bpa (1.67 mt per hectare), for a total production estimate of 54.8 million bu., or about 1.49 mmt. If realized, that would be down 44% year over year, Bryant-Erdmann said. “With decreased yield potential, many farmers have chosen to graze out the wheat fields to feed hungry cattle whose pasture has been impacted by the drought as well. As a consequence, harvested area in Oklahoma is expected to be sharply lower in 2018-19,” she said.

The third and final day of the tour was shorter, with each car making three to four field stops on the way from Wichita to Manhattan for the final report, Bryant-Erdmann said. The estimated average yield for the third day was 39.8 bpa, (2.67 mt per hectare) across 43 stops.

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