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Wind, Heat Drying Up Hope for Wheat Crop

May 16, 2011
By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor
Wheat in Drought
Ben Handcock, Wheat Quality Council executive vice president, easily sums up the look of the 2011 winter wheat crop: It’s not a great crop.  

The weather has not been kind to much of this year’s winter wheat crop. Extremely dry conditions have made several groups estimate this year’s crop to be the lowest-yielding for more than 15 years.

With the May 11 Crop Production report, USDA forecasted the entire U.S. winter wheat crop to be 1.42 billion bushels harvested from 32 million acres, down 4% from 2010. The yield forecast is 44.5 bu./acre, down 2.3 bushels from last year.
 
A major reason U.S. wheat production will be down this year is due to an expected 78-million-bushel drop in production in the No. 1 wheat-producing state.
 
During the first week of May, the more than 70 participants of the 2011 Wheat Quality Council's Hard Wheat Tour got a first-hand look at a devastating winter wheat crop.
 
The Tour’s official estimates put the Kansas crop to total 256.7 million bushels, averaging about 37 bu./acre. That is well below last year's 334-million-bushel estimate and the 10-year average of 350 million bushels. This is all despite the fact that farmers planted 800,000 more acres of wheat last fall.
 
Ben Handcock, Wheat Quality Council executive vice president, easily sums up the look of the 2011 winter wheat crop: It’s not a great crop.
 
“We know there will be a lot of fields that don’t get harvested.” On an average year, Handcock says, around 5 to 7% of fields are abandoned in Kansas due to insufficient yields. “This year it will be way higher than that, but no one knows how high.”
 
Out of Handcock’s 20 tours, he says this is definitely one of the worst overall crops he has ever seen. “There are lots of fields that farmers are sitting on that will only yield 10 to 15 bu./acre. They don’t know what to do with these fields.”
 
Handcock says even though the official estimate for Kansas is 256.7 million bushels; he thinks that may even be too high. “I think there’s a lot more downside to this wheat’s potential then there is upside. I’m thinking its probably getting worse every day it doesn’t rain.”
 
The only upside, he says is that most of the crop appeared to show very little disease pressure. Normally in a dry year, more diseases would be present.
 
During the tour, 561 wheat field stops were made in the southern tier of counties in Nebraska, the northern tier of counties in Oklahoma, counties in eastern Colorado and the majority of counties in Kansas.
 

Here are the Tour’s official estimates:

 
  • In Nebraska, the yield was pegged at 42.3 bu./acre with a production of 63 million bushels.
 
  • The eastern Colorado expected yield is 32.4 bu./acre, with an estimated total production at 78.8 million bushels.
 
  • For northern Oklahoma, a 20.5 bu./acre estimate was determined, with a total production of 67.7 million bushels.
 
  • The calculated average for the entire tour was 37.4 bushels per acre compared to 40.7 bushels on the same routes in 2010.

 

For More Information
Want to see how wheat is doing in other areas of the U.S.? Visit AgWeb’s Virtual Wheat Tour.

 


 

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RELATED TOPICS: Weather, Wheat, Agronomy, Crops

 
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