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UPDATE 2-Bumper yields projected in Kansas wheat, but crop needs time -tour

Julie Ingwersen

(Updates with closing prices, adds new quote)

MANHATTAN, Kan., May 2 (Reuters) - Wheat yield potential in Kansas was estimated at 47.2 bushels per acre (bpa), crop scouts on the annual Wheat Quality Council crop tour said on Thursday.

The figure is above the five-year crop tour average of 40.2 bpa and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2018 actual Kansas yield of 38.0 bpa, reflecting ample moisture and cool weather in recent months.

But the relative immaturity of the crop leaves it vulnerable to damage that could cut into final yields, scouts said.

"It is a better crop than last year, but late," said Dennis Haugen, a North Dakota farmer with the North Dakota Grain Growers Association who is on the tour.

"The other thing that impressed me was the lack of disease pressure."

Since emerging from its winter dormancy, Kansas wheat has flourished, with above-average moisture and mild weather fostering development. But most of the crop was still weeks away from reaching full maturity.

"If the crop was on time, I think we'd have a very good crop," said Romulo Lollato, extension agronomist at Kansas State University. "But it is behind, and that concerns me because May in Kansas is typically hot."

Tour scouts made 469 field stops on the three-day tour.

K.C. hard red winter wheat futures for July delivery settled up 5 cents at $4.05 a bushel on Thursday.

The front-month contract had fallen to its lowest in nearly 2-1/2 years on a continuous basis on Tuesday following a U.S. Agriculture Department report that showed improving crop conditions in the U.S. Plains that bolstered expectations for a bumper harvest.

The Wheat Quality Council's tour added to the bearish tone hanging over the wheat market as crop scouts reported their findings from the fields.

Dave Green, executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council, said it was too early to draw conclusions about the quality of the crop in terms of protein or milling quality. But the potential for high yields - which tend to depress protein levels - and low wheat prices are a concern, he said.

"Low prices are not good for (wheat) quality," he said, adding that low prices mean farmers have less incentive to spray fungicides and fertilize their wheat, and to buy better seed for the next crop. "Things that enhance quality are imperiled when prices are down," Green said. (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; editing by James Dalgleish, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)