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Kansas Wheat Innovation Center

Wheat Scoop #1716: Wheat Crop Could be Lowest Since 1996

May 12, 2011

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Two recently completed tours of the Kansas wheat crop confirm what farmers have suspected for some time: the 2011 crop could be one of the worst in many years.

Earlier this month, more than 70 participants of the Wheat Quality Council’s Hard Wheat Tour pegged the Kansas crop to total 256.7 million bushels, averaging about 37 bushels per acre. That is well shy of last year’s 334 million bushel estimate, despite the fact that farmers planted 800,000 more acres of wheat last fall.

On May 11, Kansas Agriculture Statistics released its own forecast of the 2011 wheat crop. It estimates farmers will grow 261.8 million bushels, down 27% from last year and the lowest production since 1996. The KAS predicts farmers will harvest 7.7 million acres, down 300,000 acres from last year and the smallest area harvested since 1957. The agency forecasts an average yield of 34 bushels per acre, down 11 bushels from last year and the lowest yield since 2007.

Dean Stoskopf, a Hoisington farmer on his 10th Hard Wheat Tour, says this year’s crop is the most difficult to estimate in the last five years. “With ideal weather, the crop could increase dramatically,” he says. “However, if dryness persists, the crop could decrease significantly, too.”

Kansas Wheat Chief Executive Officer Justin Gilpin, who participated in the Wheat Quality Council tour, said this year’s tour is notable because of dramatic differences of crop yield potential within the state. He says areas of central, north central and eastern Kansas seem to be faring the best at this point; southwest and west central Kansas farmers are facing difficult harvest prospects.

“I anticipate farmers may abandon as much as 50% of the dryland wheat in extreme southwest Kansas,” Gilpin says. “Statewide, I expect a 20% abandonment rate.”

David Schemm, president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers from Sharon Springs, expects to abandon nearly 40% of his wheat crop due to drought. Insurance adjusters have estimated the yield in those acres at two to three bushels per acre.

A below-normal Kansas wheat crop exacerbates similar weather difficulties in key wheat growing regions throughout the world. “Dryness in the wheat crop in France and Germany is being watched closely by grain traders,” Gilpin explains. However, Russia’s wheat region - which last year suffered through one of its worst dry spells in decades - appears to have recovered. “Russian wheat prospects are expected to improve, and it appears as if the Russian wheat export ban may go away in August,” he adds.

The USDA released its estimate for the entire U.S. winter wheat crop on May 11. It is forecast at 1.42 billion bushels from 32 million acres, down 4% from 2010. The yield forecast is 44.5 bushels per acre, down 2.3 bushels from last year.

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