Early optimism for 2010 wheat crop

Early projections for the 2010 Kansas wheat crop place the yield at 333 million bushels. The crop is ahead of schedule in the central part of the state ranging from Pratt, Kiowa, Kingman counties north along a line from Interstate 135 up to Ottawa County and west.

?I really like what I see across the state,? said Mark Nelson, Kansas Farm Bureau commodities director. ?I?m a bit more bullish after having seen the Kansas crop. I believe we have an upside potential for a 350 to 360 million-bushel crop.?

About 60 people (including Nelson) participated in the recent Wheat Quality Council Tour. For three days in early May, this group looked at the winter wheat crop in 95 percent of the counties in Kansas that have wheat planted.

Nelson says the crop has developed nicely in the cooler temperatures to date. He is also quick to note that as of May 10, it?s way too early to take these estimates to the bank.

?While you can determine where the wheat crop is headed at this time, this crop will be made or miss out during the period from May 10 through June 20,? Nelson said. ?A lot of things can still happen, storms with hail, drought, extreme temperatures and disease.?

One thing is somewhat certain: This year?s Kansas wheat harvest will be early. Some producers in the southern part of the state will probably pull a machine in the field sometime around June 7.

Overall soil moisture remains good across Kansas. The only really dry areas are in extreme southwestern Kansas and east along the Oklahoma border.

Few disease problems exist at this time, although the tour group found some rust and a little bit of mosaic in the southern tier counties of the state. With continued cool weather and moisture in some regions of the state, rust could become a real problem.

Today?s Kansas producers keep a close watch on the possibility of disease in their wheat fields. Still, when faced with the disease problems they have to consider carefully the decision of fungicide usage and weigh the difference between additional costs and return.

Two significant differences in this year?s crop were apparent on this year?s Wheat Quality Tour, Nelson says. Those acres during the regular planting period seem to be doing well ? great tillering, large heads in some cases and tremendous potential.

On the other hand, those wheat acres planted late, generally because of a wet fall are behind in maturity. The crop is shorter and Nelson believes the yield potential will be also be less than the crop that went in on time.

Some producers were asked if they planted all the acres they wanted last fall and most replied, ?No.

?That may be one reason we saw a drop-off in acres planted from 9 million in 2009 to 8.6 million this year, which is the lowest number of acres in Kansas since 1957,? Nelson says. ?We?re a long way from putting this crop in the bin however, if this crop can get one more good drink and temperatures remain cooler the upside potential for this wheat crop looks good.?

How good?

No one knows until the last combine leaves the last field and the crop is safely in the bin. Nelson predicts that like any typical Kansas year, yields will vary from 20 bushels per acre and less all the way to 80 bushels per acre and more.

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John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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