Kansas producers will harvest one of the state's smallest wheat crops in years as a cold winter and drought affected growth and with harvest still weeks away more deterioration could occur without rain, crop scouts concluded after touring the state's wheat fields this week.
At the end of their tour on Thursday, scouts estimated the state's wheat crop at 260.7 million bushels, down 18% from 2013's 319.2 million bushels. The average yield was projected at 33.2 bushels per acre, down 12.6% from 2013's 38 bpa.
The 260.7 million bushels would be the smallest crop since 1996's 255.2 million bushels, a crop that was planted late and later hurt by combination of dry conditions and freezing weather.
"The tour's yield is close to my current projection of 34 bpa, which will probably go down again next week," said Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain analyst. "My current production estimate is higher, at 292 million, in part because I don't try to figure in abandonment this early in the game."
On parts of the tour, scouts found fields laced with deep cracks in the soil, wheat plants much shorter than normal and patches of bare ground where wheat plants should be.
"[Wheat] won't get any better even if it does rain. [Rain] will only preserve what is left," Ben Handcock, executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council, told Farm Futures by telephone.
While poor crop conditions had been expected, Handcock said the dire conditions in some areas surprised him. USDA on Monday rated 37% of the Kansas crop poor to very poor.
The tour largely focused on the Kansas wheat, but side trips were made to Oklahoma and Nebraska. USDA has said that more than half of the wheat in Oklahoma and Texas was in poor to very poor condition.
"The big question now is what happens from here? Will the hot, dry weather forecast for the coming week last, or will rains emerge to give the crop at least a little relief? And how much damage will it take in hard red winter wheat to make a difference to prices?," said Knorr. "If production around the world is decent, lower output here just reduces our export potential. It doesn't have to mean sharply higher prices."