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Four of the 62 participants of the Wheat Quality Council Hard Spring Wheat and Durum Tour stopped to estimate yields in a wheat field south of East Grand Forks, Minn. Ann Bailey / Forum News Service

Wheat Quality Council tour happy with region's outlook

Despite a cold, wet spring that delayed planting, this year’s spring wheat yields will be similar to last year, according to estimates by Wheat Quality Council Hard Spring Wheat and Durum Tour participants.

This year’s spring wheat yield will average 43.1 bushels per acre, members of the tour estimated. Last year, tour participants estimated average spring wheat yields of 41.1 bushels per acre.

The annual Hard Spring Wheat and Durum Tour of North Dakota and Minnesota fields began Tuesday, July 23, and concluded Thursday, July 25. During the week, 62 millers, bakers, wheat buyers and other people interested in learning about the quality and quantity of this year’s spring wheat traveled the states, calculating yields with a formula devised by land grant university researchers.

The tour participants scouted 371 wheat and durum fields across North Dakota and northwest Minnesota during the three days.

While estimates of spring wheat yields are higher this year than last, durum estimates are lower. This year, durum yields will average 32 bushels per acre, 7.3 bushels lower than last year, tour participants estimated.

The average spring wheat and durum yields estimated by participants of the tour were lower than USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates released earlier this month.

The North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service estimated on July 11 that spring wheat yields will average 47 bushels per acre, two bushels per acre less than last year. Spring wheat production in the state will be 301 million bushels, down 5% from 2018, the agency said. North Dakota farmers will harvest 6.4 million spring wheat acres this year, 1% less than last year.

Durum, meanwhile, will yield an average of 38 bushels per acre this year, 1.5 bushels per acre less than last year, the North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service said. Durum harvested for grain will be 75,000 acres, 7% more than last year.

In Minnesota, spring wheat yields are estimated at 62 bushels per acre, three bushels per acre higher than last year, the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics July 11 report said. Total production is estimated at 91.8 million bushels, 1% less than last year. Minnesota farmers will harvest 1.48 million acres this year, a 6% reduction from last year, the agency said.

David Green , executive vice president of the Kansas City-based Wheat Quality Council, is confident in the accuracy of the tour's spring wheat and durum yield estimates.

“We feel real good about the numbers and I feel good about the crop,” Green said.

While there were some wheat and durum fields with heads infected with fusarium head blight, commonly known as scab, and leaves with bacterial wheat streak, the disease problems didn’t look serious. Overall, crop quality is good, Green said.

The annual Wheat Quality Council Hard Red Spring Wheat Tour is held to get a sense of wheat and durum yields and quality, teach people who work in the wheat industry about the crop and allow them to meet the farmers who produce the crops, Green said.

“They get a real-world picture of how things work,” he said.

Though tour participants work in the industry, some may never have been in a wheat field and aren’t familiar with how it is grown.

“Every year someone says ‘Where is the farmer you buy wheat from for my flour?’” Green said.

Participants on the tour not only walk in dozens of wheat and durum fields calculating yields, they also meet the farmers who grow it and tour the North Dakota Mill and Elevator where the crops are processed.

“It’s a great opportunity to get a preview of the crop, and it’s a great opportunity to meet people in the supply chain all along the way,” said Rita Ott, General Mills quality manager. “You interact with people and you learn the different perspectives.”

Ott especially enjoys visiting with durum and spring wheat farmers, she said.

“You see what matters to them, how much they have to battle with the weather.”

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