U.S. growers looking at big spring wheat crops

This year, everything went right for spring wheat growers in the United States. | File photo

This year, everything went right for spring wheat growers in the United States.

Acres jumped by more than two million and the average yield hit nearly 50 bushels per acre, setting a national record.

On top of that good news, in late October the U.S. Wheat Associates reported that the 2018 crop is mostly high-quality wheat.

“There is greater supply of high-grade HRS (hard red spring) with above-average protein levels and very good dough and bake qualities,” said the Wheat Associates, an organization that promotes U.S. exports.

“At an estimated 16 million metric tonnes, this is the largest HRS crop in 22 years and up significantly from 2017.”

Spring wheat growers in the U.S., especially North Dakota and Montana, needed a bounce-back year because 2017 was challenging.

A severe drought began in April and continued until August of 2017, hammering yields and forcing some farmers to bale their crop before harvest.

“We had the worst possible conditions for a wheat crop,” John Rickertsen, a North Dakota State University extension agronomist in Hettinger, said in August 2017. “Dry early and hot in June, when it was flowering…. Now that we’re getting into harvest, we’re getting cool and wet.”

Thanks to stronger prices over the winter, farmers in North Dakota planted 6.5 million acres of spring wheat in 2018, up from 5.3 million in 2017. Across the U.S., acreage went from 11 million acres to 13.2 million.

The 2017 drought in western North Dakota didn’t persist into 2018 and many growers generated above-average yields. The average HRS yield in the state was 49 bu. per acre, up from 41 in 2017, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.

The U.S. average was 48.3 bu. per acre.

The large and high-quality HRS crop in the U.S. hasn’t had a huge impact on prices. Spring wheat futures in Minneapolis have been steady since early September, fluctuating around US$5.80 per bu.

An Australian drought and reduced exports from Russia are propping up all prices for all classes of wheat.

“Australian exports to drop to 13 million tonnes, 10 percent below 2017-18, and the lowest level since 2007-08,” the U.S. Wheat Associates reported Oct. 31. “Exports from Russia to fall 15 percent year over year… (but) still 28 percent above the five-year average.”

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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