By Pamela Smith
DTN Crops Technology Editor
MANHATTAN, Kan. (DTN) -- This year's hard red winter wheat tour was a rubbernecker compared to the previous year. The tour estimated total production would come in around 382.4 million bushels.
Scouts estimated Kansas yields will come in at 48.6 bushels per acre. That's a big crop when compared to the 35.6 bpa estimate from the 2015 tour and a 37 bpa actual final yield last year.
However, the crop still has six or more weeks to go and, as scouts were continually reminded, a lot of things can happen between here and harvest, and most of them are bad.
DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said after very good rain in April (Dodge City record 8.08") this wheat crop is on its way to a great performance. "Heat would be fine. The two weather threats would be if rain shows up to delay harvest -- or if hail hits. Otherwise the prospect is very bright for production," Anderson said.
Also, winter wheat seeded area for harvest in 2016 in Kansas is estimated at 8.50 million acres, down from last year's seeded area of 9.20 million acres. That's the lowest number of seeded acres in the nation's leading wheat state since 2007.
Scouts did a short route on Thursday that stretched between Wichita and ended in Manhattan. The day 3 average came in at 53.5 bpa over 49 total stops, compared to 48.9 bpa last year.
Wheat looked good from the road in areas such as Sedgwick and Marion Counties, but scouts found several problems once they entered fields to pull samples. Stripe rust was the most prevalent issue. Aphids were found and even a few grasshoppers.
The routes on the tour concentrate samples in the largest production districts. The south-central, central and southwest areas of the state seeded the most wheat in 2016.
DTN Analyst Todd Hultman noted that the impact of this week's pictures from the tour could be even more bearish than the numbers estimated. "The U.S. is starting the new-crop season with roughly 1 billion bushels of old-crop wheat and Europe is expected to have 700 million bushels on hand. Not only is our U.S. winter wheat looking good, but Europe's crops were also reported to be in good shape last week and the European Commission is expecting their wheat yields to be above the five-year average."
DTN Senior Analyst Darin Newsom also commented on the bearish nature of the report. "If the pictures posted from the tour are an accurate depiction of the Kansas wheat crop as a whole, then I've not seen anything like it. Incredibly thick stands and what looks to be large heads. Not sure that all the different disease threats are going to be enough to trim yield all that much," he added.
"The bearish outlook is that it is possible -- I repeat possible -- that old-crop ending stocks approach 1 billion bushels in the June 30 Quarterly Stocks report (stocks on hand as of June 1). If so, this would be the largest ending stocks (as of May 31) figure since 1988. Those ending stocks become beginning stocks for the next marketing year that includes what now is being called a possible record HRW crop. And, HRW is the largest crop of wheat the U.S. grows each year.
"Though USDA upped new-crop demand to 2.059 billion bushels at its Outlook Forum in February (old-crop demand is projected at 1.948 bb), it may not be near enough to offset larger than expected production."
As one farmer on the tour mentioned, this estimate is a big deal if it happens. The question is: What does the weather have in store?
Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter at @PamSmithDTN
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