Variable Conditions Dominate as 2017/18 Wheat Harvest Begins
By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst
Combines are beginning to roll for winter wheat harvest in the United States with highly variable wheat and field conditions. The U.S. National Weather Service reported that in May much of the U.S. Plains region received 1.5 to 3 times more rain than normal. On Tuesday, May 30, USDA rated 50 percent of the winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, down 2 percentage points from the prior week; 15 percent of the crop was rated in poor or very poor condition. The following is a summary of harvest progress, crop conditions, field conditions and planted area by state.
Colorado. Growing conditions across Colorado have been highly variable this year with some parts of the state experiencing very favorable conditions and others quite the opposite. The late April snowstorm dumped snow across eastern Colorado, albeit on less mature wheat. Parts of the state have also been hit by severe storms and hail in the last two weeks, with damage still being assessed. Farmers noted crop development is 7 to 10 days ahead of normal across the state. On May 30, USDA rated 50 percent of Colorado winter wheat in good to excellent condition compared to 43 percent the prior week; 16 percent of the crop is in poor or very poor condition. USDA reported 70 percent of Colorado wheat is headed, behind the 5-year average of 61 percent. Colorado farmers planted 891,000 hectares (2.20 million acres) of wheat last fall, down 6 percent from 2015. USDA expects winter wheat production to fall to 1.96 million metric tons (MMT), or 72.1 million bushels, down an estimated 31 percent from the prior year.
Kansas. Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin reports that the extent of damage from the May snowstorm that dropped as much as 22 inches (54 cm) of snow on western Kansas will depend largely on planting date, maturity and varieties. Since that storm, Kansas has continued to receive excessive rain leading to standing water in fields and increased disease pressure. On May 30, USDA rated 45 percent of winter wheat as good to excellent compared to 47 percent the prior week; 25 percent of Kansas wheat is rated poor or very poor. Kansas wheat is 97 percent headed, ahead of the 5-year average of 93 percent. Last fall, Kansas planted 3.00 million hectares (7.40 million acres), down 13 percent year over year and the lowest planted area in 60 years. USDA expects Kansas to produce 7.89 MMT (290 million bushels) in 2017/18, down 38 percent from last year.
Montana. Montana farmers noted good stands of wheat, but soil moisture conditions are variable across the state. USDA rated topsoil moisture supplies at 34 percent short or very short, 62 percent adequate and 4 percent surplus, compared to 17 percent short or very short, 72 percent adequate and 11 percent surplus last year on the same date. On May 30, USDA rated 48 percent of Montana winter wheat in good to excellent condition compared to 52 percent the week prior. Montana wheat has not yet started to head, which is behind the 5-year average pace of 5 percent headed. Farmers planted 770,000 hectares (1.90 million acres) of wheat in 2016, down 16 percent from 2015 due to wet field conditions and strong price competition from peas and lentils. USDA expects Montana to produce 2.22 MMT (81.6 million bushels), down 23 percent from 2016/17.
Nebraska. Farmers report that a cool, wet spring is increasing disease pressure across the state. They also noted abandonment of some fields after a late spring freeze badly hurt yield potential. USDA rated 47 percent of Nebraska winter wheat in good to excellent condition on May 30, up slightly from the prior week. Winter wheat is 86 percent headed, compared to the 5-year average of 55 percent on the same date. Nebraska farmers planted 441,000 hectares (1.09 million acres) of wheat in 2016, down 20 percent from 2015 and the lowest planted area on record for Nebraska. USDA expects Nebraska winter wheat production to total 1.4 MMT (51.5 million bushels), down an estimated 27 percent from the prior year.
Oklahoma. Harvest is underway in Oklahoma, though storms are causing some delays. Many of the recent storms included damaging hail and farmers are concerned about getting the wheat safely into the bin. USDA rated 45 percent of Oklahoma winter wheat in good to excellent condition on May 30, compared to 49 percent the week prior; 14 percent of the crop is in poor or very poor condition. USDA reported wheat harvest in Oklahoma is 3 percent complete, behind the 5-year average of 10 percent complete on the same date. Oklahoma farmers planted 1.82 million hectares (4.50 million acres) of wheat in 2016, down 10 percent from the year prior because late-season rain prevented some wheat planting. USDA expects Oklahoma winter wheat production to fall to 2.42 MMT (89.1 million bushels), down 35 percent year over year.
South Dakota. Temperatures fell below freezing last week in South Dakota, though the damage has not yet been assessed. Topsoil moisture is rated as 56 percent adequate, compared to 82 percent adequate last year, with subsoil moisture rated as 39 percent short to very short and 58 percent adequate. USDA rated 50 percent of South Dakota winter wheat in good to excellent condition compared to 54 percent last week; 20 percent of South Dakota winter wheat is in poor or very poor condition. Winter wheat is 32 percent headed in the state, on par with the 5-year average. South Dakota farmers planted 364,000 hectares (900,000 acres) of winter wheat, down 24 percent year over year. USDA expects South Dakota winter wheat production to decline to 1.19 MMT (43.7 million bushels), down 32 percent year over year.
Texas. Harvest started two to three weeks ahead of average in Texas and, as in Oklahoma, severe storms and hail threaten the crop. As of May 30, harvest is 22 percent complete, ahead of the 5-year average of 15 percent complete. Last fall, Texas farmers planted 1.82 million hectares (4.50 million acres) of wheat, down 10 percent from the year prior in very dry field conditions. In the past two years, Texas planted wheat area has dropped by 20 percent. USDA expects Texas wheat production to total 1.88 MMT (69.0 million bushels), down 23 percent from 2016/17. On May 30, USDA rated 31 percent of Texas winter wheat in good to excellent condition compared to 36 percent the week prior; 17 percent of the Texas crop is in poor or very poor condition.
Soft Red Winter (SRW) Conditions. Harvest is underway in the mid-South (13 percent of SRW wheat has been harvested in Arkansas). Crop conditions are generally good. However, recent rainy, cool conditions from the mid-South through the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast have slowed maturity. In Ohio, Extension workers reported that the crop would benefit from drier and warmer weather. A poor price outlook compared to alternate crops has SRW planted area on a steady decline. USDA calculates SRW planted area at 2.24 million hectares (5.53 million acres) for 2017/18.
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