I had the privilege of participating in the Wheat Quality Council’s Hard Red Spring (HRS) Wheat Crop Tour last month. This is an annual tour that takes place the end of July and covers the entire state of North Dakota, but also includes western Minnesota and parts of northern South Dakota. Along with the other 72 participants, our objective was to evaluate the yield potential of this year’s HRS wheat crop. At the end of the three days, we were to estimate how many bushels of wheat the farmers will harvest out of this three state region.
I’m a proud Kansan, and proud of our number one ranking for wheat production. There’s an obvious reason why Kansas is called the wheat state and the breadbasket of the world. But I must say, I was extremely impressed with the bounty and beauty of North Dakota. True, I was there in July and not January, so my impression may be seasonally biased.
For me, the tour consisted of three things: the data, the people and the countryside.
Everyone will hear about the data. We had 73 participants, drove 17 routes and evaluated a total of 407 spring wheat fields. On one day alone, my car drove nearly 500 miles and stopped at over a dozen fields. We measured the distance between rows, counted the number of wheat heads in a 3 foot row section, the number of spikelets in each head and the number of wheat kernels per spikelet. Plug those numbers and a few factors into a formula, punch a few calculator keys, and voila, you have the estimated bushels per acre yield. We also looked for evidence of diseases, insect activity and rain/hail damage. Each evening the individual routes reported their estimates and observations. In the end, the HRS wheat crop was estimated to yield 45.7 bushels per acre, down slightly from 49.9 bushels last year.
I met new people and saw old friends. They represented not only the milling and baking industries, but farmers, grain merchandisers, government agencies, academia and the media. But we were all there for the same purpose. For many, it was their first crop tour. Others were seasoned veterans. Everyone was a student, learning from each other’s individual role within their companies and their personal experience in the wheat industry.
North Dakota grows a lot of wheat. They also grow a lot of corn, barley, flax, lentils, peas, sunflowers, canola and sugar beets. The vastness of the horizon, and the diversity and colors of the fields were breathtaking; from the light blue flowers of the flax fields to the bright yellows of the sunflowers. Our routes also took us past missile silos, wind farms, oil fields, power plants and many small, quaint rural towns.
Additional information on the HRS wheat crop tour can be found at the Wheat Quality Council’s web site at wheatqualitycouncil.org.
The yield potential of the crop is important, but it doesn’t predict the quality of the wheat, or the quality of the flour that will be milled from the wheat. This is why Bay State Milling’s new crop survey is so important. Hundreds of wheat samples from across the spring wheat growing region are being tested, milled and baked, generating enough data to provide an accurate geographical picture of the overall quality of the spring wheat crop. For additional information on the new crop survey, contact your Bay Sate Milling Sales or Technical Service representative.