American winter wheat crop faring better, but worries persist

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The U.S. winter wheat crop looks vastly better than it did a year ago at this time, but there are still pockets of concern, say two farm leaders.


Darrell Davis, past-chair of U.S. Wheat Associates, said there was plenty of moisture and good germination where he farms in South Dakota.


“It went in in really good condition,” said Davis.


“We’re really looking forward to a really good crop in that area.”


Davis’s son recently drove through the heart of the U.S. winter wheat growing area on his way to attend the 2014 Commodity Classic conference.


“He drove down all the way from northern South Dakota to Texas and he said he seen good wheat all the way down,” said Davis.


Crop condition ratings are generally up from where they were a year ago.


In Kansas, 34 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent as of March 3, compared to 23 in those two categories a year ago.


Nearly one-third of Oklahoma’s crop made the top two grades compared to nine percent a year ago.


In Texas, the crop condition is similar to a year ago, with 15 percent in good to excellent shape compared to 18 percent at the same time in 2013.


Areas of concern include northwestern Kansas, said Paul Penner, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers.


“They are bone dry,” he said.


“They did have some rain just prior to sowing so they did get some wheat up, but now they’re really concerned as the wheat emerges,” he said.


Winterkill is a possibility.


Penner said it has also been dry since October in parts of central Kansas, where he farms.


“We’re anxious. We’d like to see more rain come down,” he said. However, conditions remain a mixed bag.


“There are places in central Kansas the wheat looks awesome,” said Penner.


The tale will be told in two to three weeks when the wheat leaves dormancy.


The wheat looks good in southern Kansas, where rain has been plentiful, but Penner said northeastern Colorado is another area of concern.


Davis said the persistent drought in western Kansas and eastern Colorado is hard to break.


“It’s going to take a few years for them to really get enough subsoil moisture to say that they’re out of a drought, so they need timely rains all the way through,” he said.

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