Rain too late for U.S. spring wheat

The U.S. spring wheat crop is still in trouble despite recent rainfall.

Jim Peterson, marketing director of the North Dakota Wheat Commission, said the rain came too late for much of the crop in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana.

“You can’t call it a timely rain because a week sooner certainly would have been much more helpful,” he said.

The average U.S. spring wheat yield over the past five years is 46.4 bushels per acre.

Peterson thinks this year’s crop will be in the mid-30s because of drought, poor emergence and early-season heat stress.

He is forecasting 400 million bushels of production, down from 534 million last year because of reduced yields and acres.

Rainfall in the northern U.S. Plains was 60 to 75 percent below average for the three months preceding last week’s storms.

As of June 13, 83 percent of North Dakota was in moderate or severe drought, while 79 percent of South Dakota and the eastern third of Montana was abnormally dry or in moderate to severe drought, according to the U.S. drought monitor.

As of June 18, only 41 percent of the U.S. spring wheat crop was in good to excellent condition, down from 45 percent the week before and much poorer than last year’s 76 percent.

In North Dakota, only 18 percent of durum was rated good to excellent, down from 77 percent last year.

The dryness in spring wheat areas and expectations of a low protein hard red winter wheat crop have led to a rally in Minneapolis wheat futures. The July contract rose 53 3/4 cents per bushel during the first half of June.

“In my mind there’s still room for further upside,” said Peterson.

Bruce Burnett, director of markets and weather with Glacier FarmMedia, said the parched areas in the western Dakotas and eastern Montana received only 13 milli-metres of rain last week.

“It certainly is not the type of rainfall that you need to break a drought,” he said.

Burnett agreed with Peterson that there has already been some yield damage to the early seeded crop in the dry areas.

“It’s pretty dire now,” he said.

“The crops are going to continue to deteriorate in those regions.”

Most of the U.S. durum crop is grown in western North Dakota, which is in the heart of the drought.

“Of the wheat-related crops, durum would be the one that is going to be the most impacted by missing this rain,” said Burnett.

He said that while the U.S. is awash in wheat, the spring wheat situation is a lot tighter than winter wheat and there will be stronger than usual demand because of the need to blend spring wheat with a low protein winter wheat crop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting 5.86 million tonnes of spring wheat carryout from 2016-17, which is only slightly more than the five-year average of 5.28 million tonnes.

Peterson said in addition to the lack of moisture, the U.S. spring wheat crop was damaged by unusually high temperatures and strong winds early in the growing season.

The crop is thin on hilltops and shorter than usual. Some growers are consulting with crop insurance officials about writing off this year’s crop and planting hay or millet for their cattle.

Spring wheat imports from Canada have tailed off in recent years, but that trend will likely be reversed in 2017-18.

“Imports would have to increase a bit just to fill some of the gaps,” said Peterson.

Burnett said the recent rain was really helpful for Canada’s spring wheat crop because it is at an earlier stage of development than the U.S. crop.

“The wheat is in generally good condition,” he said.

The exception would be the areas that missed the rain, such as south-central Saskatchewan.

Alberta reports that its crops are in better-than-average condition for this time of year. Saskatchewan says crop development has improved with the warm and wet weather, and topsoil moisture has been replenished.

Manitoba soil conditions im-proved with the recent rain.

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