The official Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour estimate of the 2015 Kansas harvest is 288.5 million bushels with an average yield of 35.9 bushels estimated after three days of sampling and 659 stops across Kansas.
The prediction is that the 2015 crop, while extremely challenged first by freeze and drought and more recently by stripe rust and other foliar diseases, will be better than the 2014 crop, which was the worst in 30 years.
Tour participants took six routes in 21 cars to come up with several samples from fields in every county along the routes.
The estimate is up from last year's total estimate of 260 million bushels. The actual harvest came in at an even more dismal 249 million bushels.
On Day 3, tour participants saw wheat that was considerably less stressed than what they saw in the first two days of the tour. However, there is also considerably fewer acres of wheat in the eastern part of the state, which is heavily in pasture land in the Flint Hills.
Ironically, on the day those fields were sampled they were drier than the fields to the west, which were downright muddy on the first two days of the tour. It was not lost on tour participants that they were sampling fields in the rain, watching storm clouds build and trudging through ankle deep mud to rate field after field as severely drought damaged.
"Too bad the rain couldn't have got here sooner," commented Ernie Minton, Associate Director of Research for Kansas State University research. "It would have made a huge difference six weeks ago."
The sight of green fields promising yields in excess of the Kansas 10-year rolling average was more than welcome after two days of seeing some of the most damaged fields in the state.
"After these three days on the road, I think that number is pretty accurate," said Daryl Strouts, president of the Kansas Wheat Alliance. "My official projection was not far off. I was hoping that the number would be a little bigger, but I think there is some potential in this crop."
Rick Horton, who drove the green route along Highway 36 through Smith, Phillips and Rooks counties on Tuesday, said the devastation from a combination of freeze and drought in some areas was unbelievable.
"We saw field after field that has already been sprayed out, ready to plant to fall crops," he said.
Day 1 participants on the yellow route went through bone dry Lane and Scott counties, where local producer Tanner Ehmke described the dry and wind-eroded land as a "moonscape."
On Day 2, participants on the pink route saw the worst of the drought damage in Hamilton, Logan and Kearney counties, where two of the four cars described the low end of their yield range as "zero."
Further east toward Wichita, tour participants saw wheat that benefitted from mid-April showers and that got the through drenching they so desperately needed Monday night.
Participants on Wednesday were dodging supercell storms as they came into Wichita. A tornado touched down in Mount Hope only 20 miles north of the city.
The tour group on Thursday missed the storms that were rebuilding in central and western Kansas by mid-afternoon. More severe weather is predicted for the entire central part of the Kansas on Thursday night, Friday and Saturday.
More in this series
Manhattan floats as Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Tour kicks off
All aboard the annual Hard Red Winter Wheat Quality Council tour
Shocking numbers: Winter wheat crop even worse than last year
Hard Red Winter Wheat Tour Day 2 brings better news