Fast-Maturing Wheat Crop in the Plains

April 26, 2012 09:10 PM


The Wheat Quality Council’s 2012 hard winter wheat tour is on tap to record a healthy crop.

The warm weather than blanketed much of the Midwest and Plains during March and early April pushed the area’s winter wheat crops into overdrive.
USDA’s April 23 Crop Progress and Condition Ratings reveal 42% of the U.S. winter wheat crop is headed, which is significantly above the five-year average of 15% by this date.
Next week, the overall health and yield potential of the hard winter wheat crop in Kansas, southern Nebraska, eastern Colorado and northern Oklahoma will be rated during the 2012 Hard Winter Wheat Tour.
Ben Handcock, executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council, has been sampling wheat crops on this tour for the last 20 years. He is the chief organizer of the tour.
He says he’s only heard good reports about the area’s wheat crop this year. "The crop is at least a couple of weeks ahead of normal. Typically on the tour we’re counting the stalks of wheat. This time we’ll be counting heads."
Kansas and Oklahoma are currently 45% and 89% headed, respectively, according to USDA. The five-year average for this time period is 2% headed in Kansas and 35% headed in Oklahoma. In Colorado and Nebraska, the winter wheat crop is progressing on an average page, with neither of the state’s crops showing heads.

The Method of the Tour

Handcock says this year 100 people are signed up to scout wheat fields, and they will take samples from more than 600 fields next week.
While in the fields, the scouts will note the stage of the crop, estimate yield potential and evaluate disease and pest pressure. The data collected by the scouts is then entered into a formula that will generate an average yield for the three-day tour.
"The reason we do this tour is to give the industry a heads up on what kind of issues they will have to deal with in the upcoming wheat crop, during and after harvest," Handcock says. "It’s a great place for people in the industry to learn about as much as you can learn about wheat in three days."
Listen in as Handcock provides a preview of the 2012 tour:


Live Coverage from the Tour

Editor’s Note: AgWeb’s Sara Schafer will be traveling with the 2012 Hard Winter Wheat Tour May 1 – 3. You can read her news and coverage at



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