Doane Kansas Wheat Tour: Day 1 review

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All 22 carloads had a “designated reporter” who told the full group of 100 participants what we found on Tuesday’s routes collectively. And at the end, tour organizers summed up all data submitted and it shows crop yields almost stunningly better than last year …. Too stunningly according to a well-respected Kansas State University extension agronomist. More on that in a bit …

We're into southern Nebraska now; Thayer county. Dryer. Lowest yield so far this morning: 31.6 in Knuckll co. NE. Our group made a total of 280 stops on pre-designated and assigned routes, the same routes as in years past. We were instructed to stop every 10-20 miles. Each carload covered more than 200 miles. Each carload made between 12 and 20 stops.

There were common themes among the reports:

  • All found wheat mostly headed-out, at least two weeks and often three weeks ahead of normal development for crop tour week.
  • Every carload found wide variation in yield potential on their assigned route, with typical range of yield running from low 30s to low 70s in bushels per acre. However there were several carloads reporting calculated yields in excess of 80 bpa, and two that were in excess of 100 bpa.
  • Every carload encountered considerably more disease problems than on past tours, but also noted widespread spraying of fungicides to control these diseases.
  • Every carload estimated days to harvest at 5-6 weeks, at least two weeks sooner than in past years for this week.

The average yield estimate for all 280 stops was a record 53.6 bushels per acre, 13.6 bu/a  higher than last year’s estimated average of 40 bu/a for Day 1 of the tour (following the same routes).  In fact, this year’s Day 1 average was well above the previous record of 49 b/a set in 1998!

It's mid afternoon and we've turned south back into NW KS. First field was excellent. Yield estimated at 71.2 bps.

This is where K-state extension agronomist Dr. Jim Shroyer took the microphone to state very bluntly that the entire group had significantly over-estimated yield this year. “I’ve been monitoring Kansas wheat crops for decades,” Shroyer said, “and I can tell you with absolute certainty that this year’s crop is NOT the best crop in our state’s history!”

Shroyer also offered, however, an explanation. “It’s because this year most of the wheat is headed and we’re using the formula that requires us to count spikelets in the heads,” he said, “and I made the same mistake you all did in the first couple of fields … I grabbed the heads from the highest part of the canopy; the ones you would naturally reach for.”  But then he admitted as well that the resulting calculated yields were simply not believable in his trained experience in “eyeballing” yields.


He then explained that if we chose heads to examine as “randomly” as we selected the spot to count stems or heads within a row, we’d find that the heads on the side tillers, lower down in the row, usually have fewer spikelets than the “main” heads on the center stems. “Don’t get me wrong,” Shroyer concluded, “I have no doubt this year’s Kansas yield will be significantly higher than last year’s actual average yield of 35 bushels per acre. But I also have no doubt it will fall short of the 1998 record yield of 49 bushels per acre.”

On the basis of Shroyer’s insistence that the entire group had skewed calculated yields too high, tour organizers gave us all instruction to modify the formula used to calculate yields by reducing the number of kernels per spikelet to 2.0 whenever we saw dry soils on days 2 and 3 of this year’s tour. We were also warned that Wednesday’s routes will cover areas of the state that have endured much more dry weather stress. So I’m fully expecting that the average yield we come up with on Wednesday, collectively, won’t be nearly as much improved over last year’s Day Two average as our Day One average was over last year’s Day One average.

Source: Dan Manternach

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