KANSAS CITY — The Wheat Quality Council tour of top hard red winter wheat producer Kansas started April 30 with a record 10l participants setting out May 1 from Manhattan, Kas., to examine a crop estimated to be three weeks ahead of average in its development, the Kansas City Board of Trade said.

Participants take different routes to their destinations and stop in fields to gather crop data, such as how many stalks per foot in five locations and how many stalks in total, as well as estimating the number of heads and measure the distance between rows. They use a formula to estimate yields.

The first day of the tour started Tuesday in Manhattan and will finish in Colby, Kas. Wednesday, the tour members will fan out from Colby to Wichita, and Thursday will travel by different routes to Kansas City, collecting data as they go.

Thursday afternoon tour participants will gather at the Kansas City Board of Trade, the final stop, where data will be assessed to create a forecast of this year’s Kansas hard red winter wheat production.

An unusually warm spring is credited for the advanced wheat crop, which already may be as much as 75% headed compared with only about 7% as the five-year average for the date, according to the Kansas Ag Statistics service.

Agronomists warned participants that crop conditions may show unexpected patches of unfavorably dry conditions, especially in southern and western Kansas. Experts also suggested wheat tour participants may see a high incidence of disease, including stripe rust and barley yellow dwarf in central Kansas.