WICHITA, Kansas — A more optimistic winter wheat forecast released Friday reflects better results from the Kansas crop now that harvest in the state is nearly completed.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported it expects this year's wheat production to be 334.4 million bushels in Kansas. That is up from the 314.5 million bushels it had forecast just last month before harvest got fully under way. The estimate is based on July 1 conditions.
If realized, the 2015 Kansas winter wheat will be 36 percent larger than last year's drought-plagued crop of 246.4 million bushels.
The agency forecast the average yield in the state this harvest was 38 bushels per acre, up 10 bushels an acre from a year ago.
Kansas growers harvested 8.8 million acres of wheat both years.
Wheat production is forecast to be up across Kansas, with the exception of the state's southeast corner, where it is expected to be down slightly.
The more upbeat forecast for Kansas is in sharp contrast to the latest winter wheat production estimates for the nation.
U.S. winter wheat production was revised downward 3 percent from last month's forecast and is now predicted to total 1.46 billion bushels.
"A lot of that difference is really kind of due to just weather conditions around the country," said Jordan Hildebrand, program assistant for the industry group Kansas Wheat. "A lot of Texas and Oklahoma had been rained out and things like that, so just that little bit of intervention from Mother Nature really has a big toll."
Heavy downpours in the wheat growing states of Texas and Oklahoma caused widespread flooding and muddied wheat fields just as harvest was set to begin in those areas. But even with the extreme wet weather, the report projects this year's U.S. crop production will be 6 percent higher than it was a year ago when much of the nation's wheat growing regions were in drought conditions.
The government's forecast for the nation's hard red winter wheat, the type most commonly grown in Kansas, is down 2 percent from a month ago and is now projected to come in at 866 million bushels.
Yield increases over the past month in the hard red winter wheat growing areas are expected in both Kansas and Colorado. But elsewhere hard red winter wheat yields are down in Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
Hildebrand attributed the better wheat crops in Kansas to rains that came just as the plants were filling heads. Kansas farmers feared in March and late April that their wheat crop was going to be a bust, she said.
"Thanks to those late-season rains, which is a surprise to everybody, those yields are up," she said. "And a lot of folks are glad that they ended up keeping their crop in."