Drought continues to plague state’s wheat crop

WICHITA, Kansas – As the Kansas wheat tour hits the home stretch, the talk from the ag analysts and experts about the crop is not good.

“I had some expectations of a disappointing crop when I came out here, just based on crop condition ratings from the USDA,” Dan Manternach, on the tour representing Doane Advisory Services out of St. Louis, said. “But what I found is even worse conditions than I expected.”

Early unofficial estimates show the wheat crop yielding the lowest number of bushels in 13 years, with the state’s drought the obvious culprit.

“It’s typical of the wheat we’ve seen on the tour,” Justin Gilpin, CEO of Kansas Wheat, said as his group examined a wheat field near Goddard. “Really drought-stressed, you can see cracks in the ground, dry powder, thin stands, really short wheat.”

The worst performance remains in southwest Kansas, where the drought is at its worst. In south central Kansas, the fields are generally better, but lack of moisture is still a big problem.

“Mother Nature is forcing it to head out early,” Manternach said. “Basically, it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying there’s not enough moisture here to get to your normal height, and it better head out now.”

Growers are optimistic there is still time for improvement, but it can also get worse if the dry conditions continue.

“I’ve never seen wheat head out that’s eight inches tall, but I saw it this year, and there’s cracks in the ground you could drop a yardstick into and it goes out of sight,” Ben Handcock, of the Wheat Quality Council, said. “It’s just been too dry.”

The tour concludes with teams taking different routes from Wichita to Kansas City on Thursday, when the tour’s forecast will be released.

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