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Kansas Wheat Sketches
1918 - 1998

Kansas has been called the "Wheat State". There are indications that wheat was produced in the area now known as the state of Kansas as early as 1839. Records of wheat production in Kansas actually pre-date statehood (1861). Production statistics on wheat in Kansas have been published since 1866. Each year since 1918, Kansas Agricultural Statistics has also compiled a sketch of the Kansas wheat crop.

Wheat Crop Sketches: 1918-1998
(Every 10 Years)

1918 Crop: Seeded acres 10,199,000; harvested acres 7,250,000. December 1 condition 71 percent. Persistent drought during the summer of 1917 depleted moisture reserves. Seed wheat was scarce and high in price. Seeding continued in the western half of the State until the first of December. Much late fall sown wheat had not sprouted by mid-December. Wet snows of February and light rains in March benefited wheat, but winter kill was severe in northern and western Kansas. General rains during April greatly improved wheat prospects, and fields that looked like a failure a month earlier offered promise of a fair crop on the first of May. Strong winds caused considerable damage to the wheat, but good rains the latter part of May were very beneficial. A heat wave in June with very low precipitation caused a deterioration of the wheat crop and wheat suffered considerable losses in later maturing wheat. Final yield per acre 13.5 bushels. Total production 97,710,000 bushels.

1928 Crop: Seeded acres 12,761,000, largest to date; harvested acres 10,639,000. The crop was seeded in a poorly prepared seedbed, surface moisture was deficient in the western third of the State, and damage from Hessian fly in western counties became apparent late in the fall. Winter abandonment was heavy in the west central and north western counties due to lack of moisture at seeding time and during the winter months. Wheat made a remarkable improvement in the western third and held its own in the central district in response to abundant rainfall and favorable temperatures during May. Some loss of wheat from hail and heavy rain occurred in June, but additional rain increased yields to more than offset losses. Harvest in the western and north central counties was hampered by continued rains and wet fields, and considerable wheat was still unharvested by August 1. Final yield per acre 16.3 bushels. Total wheat production 173,185,000 bushels, largest Kansas crop to date.

1938 Crop: Seeded acres 16,942,000; harvested acres 14,494,000; both state's second largest. December 1 condition was 73 percent. Early sown wheat made good growth but precipitation after seeding was below normal. Much wheat entered the dormant period in poor condition, and below normal precipitation with high winds in January and February caused considerable abandonment. Above normal moisture in March and April rains were favorable, and heavy May rains were beneficial in western and northern counties. However, extreme lack of soil moisture at seeding time, shallow rooted wheat plants, several April and May freezes, excessive May and June rains, widespread infestation of orange leaf rust, and black stem rust all contributed to holding down yields. Final yield per acre 10.5 bushels. Total wheat production 152,163,000 bushels.

1948 Crop: Seeded acres 14,634,000; harvested acres 13,221,000. December 1 condition 59 percent. Dry topsoil during the fall was unfavorable for seeding in the western two-thirds of the State. Dry topsoil delayed seeding and prevented germination until November rains and snows were received. Most seed germinated but crop entered dormant period with very poor root development. Crop was in the poorest condition in west central, southwest, and central sections of the State. Winter and early spring precipitation improved soil moisture supplies. Some wheat in dry areas did not emerge to satisfactory stands until the last half of March, but growth was favorable in extreme western and northwestern counties and in eastern Kansas. Lack of rain and warm weather during April delayed development, but yield prospects improved in May as a result of favorable filling weather even though many fields were thin and stalks short. Control of weeds through spraying with 2,4-D was beneficial and a large acreage of improved varieties - Pawnee, Comanche, and Wichita - helped average yields. Moderate temperatures and abundant rainfall during June resulted in yields much greater than expected earlier. Late wheat reached harvest with no injury from hot winds, insects, or diseases. Harvest was delayed by general rains in late June. May 1 yield per acre forecast was 12.09 bushels. Final yield per acre 17.5 bushels. Total wheat production 231,368,000 bushels. Weight per bushel 59.1 pounds, protein 12.4 percent. Leading varieties Pawnee, Comanche, Tenmarq, Wichita, and Early Blackhull.

1958 Crop: Seeded acres 10,727,000; harvested acres 10,433,000. December condition 96 percent. The crop got off to a good start in the fall, came through the winter in excellent condition, made vigorous spring growth, and filled exceptionally well. The wheat matured at about normal time but harvest was delayed during June by intermittent rains. This was followed by warm, drying weather and about 60 percent of the crop was harvested during the first two weeks of July. An unusually large proportion of seedings on summer fallowed land, abundant moisture, thick stands, and cool, damp filling weather all contributed to an excellent yield per acre, uniformly high across the State. May 1 yield per acre forecast was 20.5 bushels. Final yield per acre 28.5 bushels, 7.5 bushels above the previous record set in 1952. Total wheat production 297,340,000 bushels, second largest crop to date. Weight per bushel 60.6 pounds, protein content 11.8 percent. Leading varieties Wichita, Kiowa, Pawnee, Triumph, Ponca, and Comanche.

1968 Crop: Acres seeded 11,963,000; acres harvested 9,751,000. December 1 condition 81 percent. Wheat seeding the previous fall lagged in early September but following rains, gained momentum and was virtually completed by the end of October. In extreme western Kansas, dry weather caused some spotted stands, and continued lack of moisture into early spring, coupled with greenbug and cut worm damage, caused sharp acreage losses and reduced yields in this area. Elsewhere in the State, ample late spring moisture and a favorable filling period produced especially good yields. Harvest was rather slow starting but gained momentum under favorable weather and was completed sooner than usual. May 1 yield per acre forecast was 20.0 bushels. Final yield per acre 26.0 bushels. Total wheat production was 253,526,000 bushels. Weight per bushel was an excellent 61.9 pounds; protein content was a slightly below average 11.7 percent.

1978 Crop: Seeded acres 11,300,000; harvested acres 10,000,000; abandonment 11.5 percent. Seeding in the fall was completed on schedule. The wheat crop generally attained good growth in the fall, although a few fields were seeded late. Because of grasshopper damage, some field borders had to be reseeded. Condition of the crop was rated 89 percent on December 1. Very little winter kill occurred and little acreage was blown out. Continuing through April, the eastern half of the State received generally ample to heavy rainfall. The western half was under considerable stress by the end of the month. On April 30 and May 1, most of the western two-thirds of the State received more than one inch of rainfall, relieving drought stress , particularly in the southwest. Kansas rainfall during May was 24 percent above the long-time average for the State. Temperatures were below normal much of April and frost and freezing temperatures occurred in much of the west and north on April 20 and 21. Many local areas received damage from hail and heavy rains at harvest time. May yield forecast was 31.0 bushels. Final yield per acre 30.0 bushels. Total wheat production was 300,000,000 bushels. Protein content of the crop averaged 12.0 percent. Leading varieties were Eagle, Scout, Sage, Centurk, Triumph, and Tam 101.

1988 Crop: Acres seeded 10,200,000; harvested acres 9,500,000; abandonment 700,000 acres or 6.9 percent of the planted acres. Wheat seeding got off to a good start in early September and was ahead of normal throughout the fall. By early October, however, moisture was needed in central and western counties to assure emergence and stand development. For the week ending November 29, the condition of the crop was rated 57 percent good to excellent. Conditions remained dry in these areas until a mid-December snow storm helped relieve some moisture stress. Leaf rust was present over the entire State and wheat streak mosaic developed in epidemic proportions in most areas. Greenbugs appeared in mid-November and endangered the younger wheat, especially if already affected by mosaic. The crop came through the winter in only fair shape with 55 percent rated good to excellent, compared to 88 percent the year before. This reflected the shortage of topsoil moisture in central and western districts. Spring moisture was generally adequate for growth and development. June was hot and dry, causing rapid maturing. Harvest was one of the fastest on record with over 90 percent cut by July 1. The disease causing the greatest yield losses in 1988 was wheat streak mosaic, with an estimated 13.0 percent loss, compared with a 1.3 percent average. This disease, along with others such as leaf rust and barley yellow dwarf, caused an estimated total loss of 22.4 percent, the highest since loss estimates began in 1976. The Russian wheat aphid appeared once again and spread across the western half of the State causing additional yield losses. Despite the problems experienced, test weights and protein averaged higher than normal and were a pleasant surprise to many producers. The May 1 yield forecast was 38 bushels per acre. Final yield was 34 bushels per acre. Total wheat production was 323,000,000 bushels. Protein content averaged 12.5, test weight average 60.3 pounds per bushel, and moisture averaged 10.2 percent. The wheat graded 55 percent No. 1 and 40 percent No. 2. Leading varieties were Arkan, Newton, Larned, AgriPro Hawk, Pioneer, and AgriPro Victory.

1998 Crop: Acres seeded 10,700,000 acres; harvested acres 10,100,000; abandonment 600,000 acres or 5.6 percent of the planted acres. Seeding of the 1998 wheat crop began the first week of September in the western districts of the State. Producers made normal progress during the month with about one third of the crop in the ground by late September. Favorable weather and field conditions continued over the first two weeks of October and wheat seeding progressed to 90 percent complete, ahead of the 83 percent average. Rainfall and an early season blizzard in late October slowed the seeding progress of the remaining acreage. The hardest areas hit with the snowfall and wind were north and west of a line from Liberal to Dodge City to Hayes to Mankato. By the first of November, seeding progress had slowed substantially with five percent of acreage remaining to be seeded. By November 2, over 89 percent of the crop had emerged and was rated 82 percent good to excellent. At the beginning of December 1998, crop condition remained high at 77 percent. On December 1, 13 percent of the acreage was being pastured compared with the average of 10 percent. Wind and freeze damage was reported to have affected less than five percent of the acreage. As the crop broke dormancy, moisture supplies were mostly adequate to surplus. A storm system moved through the state on March 7 with heavy winds and snowfall ranging in depths up to 18 inches. Winter wheat remained in mostly good to excellent condition despite the late winter snow storm. By March 29, 9 percent of the crop was jointing compared with an average of 13 percent. On April 17, temperatures dipped below freezing raising concerns that the crop may have been damaged. Although there was slight damage, most of the crop remained healthy and developed rapidly under excellent temperature and moisture conditions. During late May, a severe hail and wind storm moved across the west central, southwest central, and south central parts of the State, destroying some acreage and causing significant damage to the crop. By the first of June, the weather had become hot and dry. At this time, wheat was rated 69 percent good to excellent with 99 percent of the crop headed and 40 percent of the crop showing color. Although harvest began by the second week of June, renewed rainfall delayed many operators from getting into the fields. After the rains ended, the weather again turned hot and dry allowing the harvesters to return to the fields. Over the next couple of weeks, harvest progressed at a very rapid pace and by the Fourth of July, 97 percent of the wheat had been harvested compared to an average of 59 percent. The May 1 yield forecast was 37 bushels per acre. Final yield was 49 bushels per acre. Total wheat production was 494,900,000 bushels. Protein content averaged 11.5 percent; test weight, 61.5 pounds per bushel; and moisture, 11.2 percent. The wheat graded 88 percent No. 1 and 11 percent No.2. Leading varieties were: Jagger - 20.2 percent, 2137 - 13.5 percent, TAM 107 - 12.6 percent, Karl/Karl 92 - 10.8 percent, 2163 - 10.5 percent, and Ike - 7 percent.

Source: Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service

The complete Kansas Wheat History, with annual Kansas wheat crop sketches beginning in 1918, 1998 is available on the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service web site