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Published August 03, 2010, 09:23 AM

Tour pegs another big spring wheat crop

FARGO, N.D. — This year’s Wheat Quality Council tour of spring wheat areas showed a yield that’s down “almost insignificantly from last year’s record crop,” according to summaries in a July 29 report at the end of the three-day tour at the Northern Crops Institute in Fargo, N.D.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — This year’s Wheat Quality Council tour of spring wheat areas showed a yield that’s down “almost insignificantly from last year’s record crop,” according to summaries in a July 29 report at the end of the three-day tour at the Northern Crops Institute in Fargo, N.D.

The total hard red spring wheat projection for the tour was calculated at 46 bushels per acre, down slightly from the 46.2 bushels in 2009’s tour, which was the highest on record. Tour projections in the five years of 2004 to 2008 had averaged 36.2 bushels per acre.

The projected average from the tour is based on weighted formula, involving data from 321 spring wheat fields surveyed along eight, color-coded trip routes. This year’s spring wheat yield projection has a standard deviation of 11.5 bushels per acre, above or below the projection, which reflects the risks within a growing crop, says Dave Katzke of General Mills in Minneapolis, who crunched the numbers and generated reports.

The total durum yield projection is 38.4 bushels per acre, with a standard deviation of 11.2 bushels. That’s based on 41 fields surveyed, which was up from the 35 field surveyed in 2009, when the projection was 36.2 bushels per acre.

Only eight hard red winter wheat fields were surveyed, but the projection there was for 48.4 bushels per acre, down from 51.3 bushels last year. No standard deviation was calculated. Winter wheat fields surveyed during the tour peaked in the last two years at about 20 in 2008 and 2009, but declined to eight this year, which was about the same as 2007 and earlier.

“I told people that we could have just stayed home and used last year’s result,” says Ben Handcock, executive director for the Wheat Quality Council, which is based in Pierre, S.D. The crop looked good “everywhere we went,” he says, but also says this year’s crop was a little earlier.

“Maybe that would mean there’ll be a little more protein in it, I don’t know,” he says. “It’s just good all over the state. There’s no bad place.”

Handcock says the tour produced a lot of stops despite some tough weather July 26 — the southern Day 1, which dipped into South Dakota and west to Bismarck, N.D.

“This year, we only had the first day that we had to fight any muddy conditions,” the cigar-chewing Handcock says. “That probably influenced us because we probably didn’t make as many stops in the (Red River) Valley as we should have on Day 1.”

The July 28 and July 29 days were “perfect,” he says. Fifty-four industry officials, government officials and farmers participated in the tour. Among the largest delegations were from the National Agricultural Statistics Service and Horizon Milling/Cargill.

Dave Green, of ADM Milling in Shawnee Mission, Kan., who helped coordinate the event, says tour participants had a “lot of objective yield surveys” this week.

Why do it?

Green says the tour has three purposes: first, a way for people in the industry to meet and know each other; second, to “define the crop prospects;” and third, to “showcase North Dakota and agriculture in general.”

Tim Pohlman Jr., who recently was named manager of plant quality for the ConAgra Mills in New Prague, Minn., says the tour wasn’t particularly surprising, but was very interesting. Along his route from Grand Forks, N.D., to Fargo July 28, he noted a little scab disease in the north, but then some lodging as a result of heavy rains and perhaps hail.

Among this year’s curiosities on the tour: One car collected a ticket from a highway patrol officer and another was circled by an unmanned aircraft. Day-by-day summaries of calculated yield projections:

- Day 1: Southern Red River Valley and west to Bismarck: spring wheat average, 43.1 bushels per acre, compared with 45.6 bushels last year; durum, 30.6 bushels, 44.2 bushels last year; and winter wheat, 37.4 bushels, 50 bushels last year.

- Day 2: Bismarck north and east to Devils Lake: 46.3 bushels per acre, compared with 44.6 bushels last year; durum, 38.9 bushels, compared with 35.4 bushels last year; and winter wheat, 47.4 bushels, 54.5 bushels last year.

- Day 3: Northern Red River Valley and south to Fargo: spring wheat, 50.3 bushels, compared with 50.2 bushels last year. Durum is pegged at 40.2 bushels, compared with 26.2 bushels last year. Hard red winter wheat is estimated at 66.5 bushels per acre, with no estimate last year.

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