Wheat Condition Update and Yield Estimate of 43.7 Million Bushels

Wheat Condition Update and Yield Estimate of 43.7 Million Bushels

The annual hard red winter wheat tour, sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council, was conducted this week throughout Kansas, parts of Oklahoma, and along a path traversing four southern counties in Nebraska (Figure 1).

2018 Wheat Quality Tour Routs
Figure 1. Routes for 2018 hard red winter Wheat Quality Tour

A small number of Nebraska wheat fields in Thayer, Nuckolls, Webster and Franklin counties were sampled. Kent Lorens, a member of the Nebraska Wheat Board on the Wheat Quality Tour, said average yield in those counties was estimated at 30 bu/ac and ranged from 18 bu/ac to 38 bu/ac at different sites. Yields from western portions of the sampled area were lower due to drier conditions.

Members of the Nebraska Wheat Board and Nebraska Wheat Growers Association reported data from additional wheat production areas this week (below). The 2018 Nebraska wheat crop was estimated at 43.7 million bushels, down from 46.92 million bushels last year, said Royce Schaneman, executive director of the Nebraska Wheat Board. The estimated yield average is 43 bushels per acre.

The estimate for Kansas, which represented the majority of this hard red winter Wheat Quality Tour, was for 243.3 million bushels. If realized, this would be about 90 million bushels less than last year's crop and the lowest production in Kansas since 1989, according to a tour report.

Wheat Condition and Yield Estimates by Region

Statewide the Nebraska wheat crop is estimated to be one to three weeks behind normal growth, depending on region. This delay is causing some growers to be concerned about the potential for heat damage and drought stress later in the growing season.

Recent high winds and warming temperatures are quickly depleting moisture reserves in areas of the state, causing grower concern about potential quality and yield. 

Northern Panhandle

  • Yield estimates are 35-50 bu/ac dryland and 75-100 bu/ac irrigated.
  • Crop growth is behind normal, due to late planting (by two to three weeks) last fall and cool temperatures this spring.

Southern Panhandle

  • Quality varies between eastern and western portions of this region.
  • Dryland yields range from 30 to 60 bu/ac, with most fields in the 40s. Irrigated yields range from 80 to 100 bu/ac.
  • The better fields appear to be those planted earlier and those that followed a fertilization program. Later planted fields typically showed lower yield estimates.


  • Yield estimates vary across the region, depending on spring precipitation and temperatures.
  • Estimates are of 35 to 65 bu/ac dryland, with the average about 45 bu/ac. There is some irrigated wheat in the area, though less than in previous years. Estimates range from 75 to 110 bu/ac for irrigated fields.
  • Producers expressed concerns about a recent spate of high temperatures and windy days that have depleted soil moisture. Precipitation will be needed in this area soon or yields and quality will decrease.

 South Central

  • This region has fewer planted acres than the western counties.
  • Yield estimates range from 35-50 bu/ac, with most fields falling in the mid to upper 40s.
  • Soil moisture levels are adequate, but wheat growth is behind average.


  • Wheat is 4-6 inches tall.
  • The wheat needs moisture and if it doesn’t get it soon, some fields may be abandoned.
  • Yields look below average and range from the 30 bu/ac to the low 50s, with most averaging in the low 40s.

East Central (by Extension Educator Nathan Mueller)

  • An area adding back wheat, in 2017 it had 6,000 acres
  • Soil moisture in the root profile ranges from slightly dry to completely full. Much of the area received 10 to 15 inches of moisture since October 1.
  • Yield estimates range from 42 to 104 bu/ac, averaging in the mid 60s.
  • Wheat is behind normal maturity, at Feekes 3 (tillering) to Feekes 7 (early joint), due to late planting and a record cold April.
  • Yield estimates could be reduced if warmer-than-normal temperatures occur during grain fill in June to early July.