The Kansas wheat crop will fall 22 percent, to 299.7 million bushels, from last year’s 382.2 million bushel harvest, according to a forecast as of May 1 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
If the forecast holds, the number of acres producing wheat will be down 11 percent, mostly because drought has stunted so many fields in western Kansas. Yields statewide are forecast to average 37 bushels per acre, down 5 bushels from 2012.
In south-central Kansas, the state’s most productive wheat growing region, the crop is projected to be down 19 percent, to 75.5 million bushels.
The acreage in the area is down 9 percent, and the yield is projected at 38 bushels per acre this year, down from 43 bushels last year.
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“We have a little of everything,” said Jon Kerschen, who farms near Garden Plain. “Some of this is looking really good, some not quite as good.”
He said at this point, more than a month from harvest, his crop looks like an average one – with yields of about 40 bushels per acre expected.
“My big fear is that there will be a lot of heat,” he said, “That would hurt the test weights.”
Farther west, the effects of the drought and freezes are more dramatic.
The amount of wheat harvested is expected to be down 48 percent in southwest Kansas, 45 percent in the west-central region, and 43 percent in the northwest region.
Gary Millershaski, a wheat farmer in Kearny County, west of Garden City, said that two years ago his wheat got hailed on, cutting yields to 17 bushels an acre. Last year was OK, at 34 bushels an acre.
This year, he said, may be worse than two years ago.
He said the freezes weren’t that important, but the drought has been punishing.
This year a third of his fields have potential for 25 bushels per acre, a third have a potential for 17-18 bushels per acre, and a third is already “zeroed out,” he said.
“I’m seeing it, I’m living it, but I can’t say I’m loving it,” Millershaski said.
The central and north-central regions are down only slightly from last year, while the less important wheat-growing areas in the eastern third of the state may even be up slightly, according to the USDA report.
USDA will make its next forecast for the wheat crop after assessing conditions on June 1.