Once again our record group of 100 participants loaded up into 22 carloads and took off on assigned routes identical to last year with the same instructions:  Stop every 10-20 miles, walk out into the fields and take random samples by throwing a yardstick into the air, letting the wind catch it and counting heads (or stems if not yet fully headed) in a 12-inch section of row, three times.

Doane Kansas Wheat Tour: Day 2 reviewWith 4-5 to a carload, this resulted in 12-15 samples from each of the 286 fields entered and sampled today. The number of heads was then multiplied by the average number of spikelets; then by kernels per spikelet ranging from 2.0 to 2.3; divided by the width of the rows and then multiplied again by a factor that used historical data for average kernel weight. Each car’s route covered more than 250 miles and again each carload was asked to make a minimum of 16 field checks over the course of the day.  (The car I was in topped the group in tonight’s reporting with 22 field stops. We’re beat!)

Again there were common themes among the reports:

  • All found wheat mostly headed out, with rare exceptions where we used a different formula based on counting stems versus heads.
  • All estimated wheat to be at least two and as much as four weeks ahead of normal, with harvest expected to be earlier by the same degree.
  • Every carload found even wider variation in yield potential on their assigned routes than we found yesterday.  In the car I was in, our low yield estimate was 25 bu/a and our high was 80.5 bu/a, with an average yield among our 22 stops of 53.5 bu/a, up sharply from this same route last year where the car assigned this leg averaged 31 bu/a.
  • The widest range of yields among the 22 cars reporting tonight was 21 bu/a to 88 bu/a; the latter being the highest reported among all 286 stops made by the group as a whole. The low yield among the entire group was just 8 bu/a, with several others reporting lows in the mid-teens. These groups also reported some fields that had been cut and baled as hay.
  • There was still more disease evident than in a normal year among the reports, but substantially less than encountered yesterday since disease is usually the result of cool, wet conditions and the areas traveled today had more frequently had warmer-and-drier than normal conditions to contend with this spring.

Doane Kansas Wheat Tour: Day 2 reviewThe average yield estimate for all 280 stops was 43.7 bu/a, down about 10 bu/a from Day One’s average of a record 53.6 bu/a, but still up 10.3 bu/a from last year’s Day Two average of 33.4 bu/a for this set of assigned routes.  This was consistent with what we were told to expect after last night’s Day One reports; lower average yield estimates. In fact, tour organizers noted that while well above last year’s drought-reduced average for Day Two, today’s average was just half a bu/a higher than the 43.2 bu/a reported by the group for Day Two in 2007 and half a bu/a lower than the 44.2 bu/a estimated by the 2005 Tour.

Unlike last night, K-State Agronomist Dr. Jim Shroyer had no argument with today’s estimates.  (See my previous report on Day One, where he told the group flat out that we had overestimated yields significantly in his opinion; and explained why.) He then advised all groups on Tuesday night to do a better job of selecting heads (for counting spikelets) at random today (Wednesday) and to avoid simply picking the most prominent heads above the canopy. He also advised Tuesday night that today each carload of participants use a lower kernel count figure of 2.0 per spikelet for any field found to be under drought, disease or insect stress – or evidence of frost damage.

He then confidently predicted we’d assemble for tonight’s reports and come up with 1) a lower average yield for these Day Two routes and 2) a smaller increase over last year’s tour average than on Day One. And he was right. Today’s average yield was down 9.9 bu/a from yesterday and just 10.3 bu/a above last year’s Day Two average vs. the 13.6 bu/a increase from last year reported after Day One.

On Thursday we take assigned routes from Wichita back to Kansas City where we gather one last time to report after watching the close at the Kansas City Board of Trade.  At that time, every tour participant is asked to estimate the size of this year’s Kansas wheat crop that USDA will report in August and the average of all estimates will be released to the trade Thursday after the close. I’ll have those figures in a final report Thursday night; plus reports on yield prospects we heard from folks who have toured wheat in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Nebraska.

Source: Dan Manternach