Weather could improve hope for wheat yields

Temperatures and weather will determine the final outcome of this year?s wheat harvest, but Marion County Extension Agent Rickey Roberts acknowledges it ?isn?t looking real good.?

?It?s sure not going to be a bumper crop,? he said. ?There will be a wide range of yields like there is every year. I?m guessing we?re going to cut a lot of 25 to 30 bushels (an acre) wheat.?

But that?s after some of the wheat hardest hit has already been tilled in because it winter-killed in weather too cold and too dry, Roberts said, an unusual situation for this part of Kansas.

Crop insurance adjustors were already able to settle claims against some of that wheat, and will be able to do so on much of the remaining acres where yields are lowered. But Roberts said income varies according to the company and policy a producer uses.

One producer said the dry weather caused wheat tillers to die out, putting all growth into the primary head, so his insurance has him covered for a reduction no matter the final outcome.

But another producer contacted said, ?Insurance is for the big boys.? Smaller wheat producers frequently just have to absorb weather-related losses, he said.

No matter what happens from here, the entire wheat industry predicts lower yields.

The Kansas wheat crop is expected to be down 18 percent from last year, with the poorest crop since 1996 predicted at 260.4 million according to the U.S. Agri?cul?tural Statistics Service as of May 1.

The service predicted the Kansas average wheat yield per acre at 31 bushels an acre, down seven bushels from last year, with 1.4 billion acres expected to be harvested, still easily the top producing wheat state in the United States.

The national yield average was 43.1 bushels an acre.

No matter what happens from here, Roberts said, ?The wheat yield is not really set yet. The wheat is pretty thin. There?s no tillers. The number of heads is not going to change.

?A lot depends on what rain we still get, and how cool it stays.?

Roberts said if it stays relatively cool with some moisture, the wheat heads may fill out well to maintain yields. But consistent weather into the mid-90s or higher could reduce yields.

?If weather is like this past week?staying in the 60s with a three-quarter-inch rain, we?ll get some wheat?but not if it starts going 95 to 100 every day. That would be the worst that could happen.?

Roberts said in looking at the potential wheat yield, the discussion should not fix at all on how short the plant is. Research has shown no correlation between wheat yield and wheat height, he said.

The interactions of weather and wheat over a large portion of the country can get complex and hard to predict, Roberts said. But with the crop known to be poorer than average over a large area of the country, at least the wheat prices should stay relatively good, he said.

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