Lifted by near-record yields, the Kansas wheat crop will be the largest in more than a decade, according to an early estimate from the Kansas Wheat Tour.
Tour members estimated the state’s farmers will produce 382.4 million bushels, which is nearly 20 percent better than last year and more than 50 percent better than the poor harvest of 2014.
The key to the high production is a near-record yield of 48.6 bushels of wheat per acre, with strong fields spread fairly evenly across west, central and eastern Kansas.
The USDA will come out with an official estimate of the Kansas wheat harvest in a week.
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Participants in the annual Wheat Tour – employees of national grain companies, brokers and consultants, as well as farm media and producers – spent three days on the road, spread out across Kansas in 20 cars to sample fields.
After visiting more than 600 fields, the group concluded that Kansas had been blessed by the rains in April, particularly in western Kansas, which has suffered heavily from intermittent drought since 2012.
“We probably saw 15 to 20 percent better wheat this year than last year,” said Gary Millershaski, a farmer in southwest Kansas. “We saw heavy disease pressure from Dodge City to Pratt, but other than that — I’m proud to be a producer. It looks good.”
The difference between last year and this year was best summed up by Wayne Moore, a consultant from Tampa, Fla., who reported what he saw to the other tour members who had gathered Wednesday night at Wichita’s Best Western Airport hotel after a day on the road.
Looking down at notes taken during the 2015 visit to a field in Hamilton County, on the Colorado border, Moore said they read:
“ ‘Drought, wind erosion, freeze damage, hail damage’ and then one final word: ‘grim,’ ” Moore said, looking up. “This year, it was 40 (bushels per acre).”
What is particularly interesting is that Kansas farmers, always trying to outguess the market, cut their wheat acreage 8 percent this year in favor of planting corn. Wheat prices have been falling steadily for six years and now sit around $4.50 per bushel, close to some farmers’ cost of production.
With the profit per bushel slim these days, farmers have said that having a good harvest to sell would partly compensate for low prices.
“The yield potential out there is encouraging,” said Justin Gilpin, CEO of the Kansas Wheat Commission, who was on the tour. “Especially with prices being low, good production is very important.”
First estimate of Kansas wheat harvest
Wheat Tour 2016 on Thursday said this year’s wheat harvest will be the best of recent years.
Harvest (in mil. of bushels)
382.4 (tour est.)
Sources: USDA and Wheat Tour 2016