Kansas Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann grew up on a farm near Quinter. That didn’t stop him from wanting to learn about the work done at the agriculture research center in Hays.
Mann was on an official visit Friday in Hays, where he toured the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center and visited with Fort Hays State University President Tisa Mason.
“I knew this was here but didn’t know exactly what happened here. So we were in Hays anyway and decided to call and see what was going on,” Mann said.
Mann toured some of the center’s wheat test plots and talked about the process of bringing new varieties of wheat to market.
“It takes seven years to go from concept to a wheat variety that’s ready to be commercialized. Would that be correct,” he said, verifying what he’d learned with Bob Gillen, director of the Western Kansas Agricultural Research Centers in Hays, Colby, Garden City and Tribune.
The different facilities are needed to work with the state’s varying geographic conditions, Mann said. He also learned the Hays facility has 3,000 acres and works with mostly wheat, sorghum and cattle. There’s also entomology and soil science departments.
In a test plot just west of the main campus, Mann and Gillen, a Plainville native, engaged in some farm talk.
Mann asked about the process and equipment used to plant and harvest the test plots and talk turned to the harvest and rainfall.
Mann’s parents and older brother farm about 3 miles south of Quinter, where he said they got 7 inches of rain several weeks ago.
“It actually came down soft. It didn’t run off as much as you would think,” he said.
Mann asked Gillen what he’d heard about this year’s harvest. Gillen said it was going to be a “mediocre” year statewide, with only 18 percent of the crop rated good or excellent. Yields will hit 30 to 35 bushels per acre through the central corridor, he said.
“That’s not very good,” Gillen said.
But the state had two very good years previously, he said.
“We live in western Kansas, so it’s going to even out somewhere along the way. That doesn’t make it any better, especially with low commodity prices,” Gillen said.
Mann’s tour continued Friday with stops in Hoxie and Colby.