Participants in the Wheat Quality Council’s 2011 hard winter wheat tour, on the basis of 561 field stops across the state, projected the average wheat yield in Kansas at 37.4 bus per acre compared with a tour estimate of 40.7 bus per acre last year and the actual 2010 average Kansas wheat yield of 45 bus per acre. The 2011 yield estimate was the lowest since the tour estimate of 37.3 bus an acre in 2006, when the actual Kansas wheat yield was 32 bus an acre and production was 291.2 million bus. The recent 10-year average Kansas wheat yield was 39 bus per acre with a high of 48 bus per acre in 2003 and a low of 32 bus per acre in 2006.

Generally, the 2011 Kansas crop was drought stressed in the west, particularly in the southwest, and improved as the tour progressed eastward, as expected. Crop scouts indicated the harvest was five weeks from beginning, and should weather turn wetter across the region, crop condition ratings may stabilize or even improve after an abysmal start to the season. In its weekly Crop Progress report issued on May 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated the condition of the Kansas winter wheat crop at just 21% good to excellent, 34% fair and 45% poor to very poor.

Seventy-three individuals participated in the wheat tour with 46 identifying themselves as part of the grain, milling and baking industries. Other participants included government employees, university faculty and students, media and foreign guests. Fifty-five of the participants provided forecasts of Kansas wheat production based on their observations and those of the other crop scouts. The average of the tour crop forecasts was 256.7 million bus. If that forecast were to be realized, the 2011 Kansas crop would be the smallest since 255.2 million bus in 1996. The recent 10-year average Kansas wheat outturn was 343.4 million bus.

Dry conditions also reduced production prospects in nearby states as reflected in forecasts relayed to tour participants. Feed and grain industry representatives forecast winter wheat production in Texas between 40 million and 50 million bus (127.5 million bus in 2010), Oklahoma around 67.7 million bus (120.9 million bus in 2010), Colorado at 73 million to 79 million bus (108.2 million in 2010) and Nebraska at 63 million to 64 million bus (64.1 million in 2010).