Kansas farmers know how to grow wheat. At times, the state has ranked number one in wheat production and currently ranks fifth. But, this year, yields promise to be different after a multi-year drought. While an estimated 8.1 million acres of wheat were planted in the fall, the Kansas wheat crop has suffered from the drought, which has robbed the state’s yield potential and resulted in many abandoned fields.
After wrapping up the three-day 2023 Wheat Quality Council’s Hard Winter Wheat Tour, Kansas is anticipating that abandonment this year might be as high as nearly 27 percent, over 10 percent the National Agricultural Statistics Services’ original prediction for crop abandonment.
Nationally, winter-wheat farmers plan to abandon 33 percent of the acres they planted, the highest percentage since World War I, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a May 12 report.
The USDA also listed 37 percent of winter wheat conditions as very poor and 32 percent as poor.
Wheat standings are no surprise. Although rain has been hitting some of Kansas, it’s too little and too late for wheat. Despite the moisture, over 36 percent of the state still remains in exceptional drought. The total D1 through D4 drought area is 81 percent of the state.
While some farmers will plant sorghum to grow another crop, others may use that wheat to graze cattle.
Data shared by Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin compares planted wheat acres, harvested acres, and the percentage of abandonment since 1973. Gilpin said many industry folks are comparing the drought of 2023, with a very similar situation in 1989 when abandonment reached more than 28 percent.
Farmers will receive some comfort from insurance, but local businesses may suffer while seasonal harvesters travel to other areas.
Reuters also notes that the poor crop may also impact Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture when wheat sales drop and the Kansas Wheat Commission is unable to supply as much funding.
»Related: CattleFax predicts producer profitability and drought relief for 2023