Despite worsening crop conditions in the nation’s leading wheat state, it’s way too early to count out the 2011 Kansas winter wheat crop. In its Nov. 28 Crop Progress and Condition report, Kansas Agricultural Statistics (KAS) estimates 37% of the crop is good to excellent; 38% is fair and 25% is rated poor to very poor. It appears to be the worst crop at this stage of maturity than any winter wheat crop since 1991, says Dalton Henry, government affairs, Kansas Wheat.

Henry, who has charted the last 20 years of crop condition reports, says projecting the future of the 2011 crop is foolhardy. “However, in the last 20 years of crop condition reports, when we have had this much of the crop rated poor to very poor, and this little of the crop rated good to excellent, the yields have been average or below average," Henry says.

Kansas Research and Extension Agronomist Jim Shroyer says the Kansas wheat crop condition varies throughout the state. From Dodge City to Cimarron, dry weather has stunted development of the wheat. According to KAS, just 17% of the acreage in southwest Kansas has adequate topsoil moisture; the remainder is short to very short.

"That area of the state was hurting before rain fell upon much of Kansas prior to Thanksgiving," Shroyer says. "The region did not receive that much rain and is hurting even more now. In fact, south and west of Garden City, the wheat is going backwards."

In north central Kansas, emergence was hindered due to lack of moisture, although the area did receive much-needed rain the week of Nov. 15. However, the rain was too late to bolster emergence percentages.

In other areas of the state, the picture is far rosier. Many wheat fields throughout Kansas have emerged and developed strong root systems, which are essential to enable survival through the winter. However, there is concern about wheat planted after the harvest of fall crops. Much of that wheat has failed to emerge, which all too often is bad news at harvest. Shroyer says that wheat planted in the fall but fails to emerge until after Jan. 1 normally sustains a 40-60% yield loss.

"There can be exceptions. If there is ample winter moisture and below-normal temperatures in May and June, it can do okay. If there is time for the crop to produce tillers in the spring, we may not lose that much yield," he explains. Thus, Shroyer cautions against making hasty decisions about this wheat crop. "Wait and see what happens next spring. Once you realize you're going to have wheat, then fertilize and apply crop protection products appropriately," he says.