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The Good and the Bad Across Wheat Country

Northwest experiencing good to excellent conditions while the southern plains continues to face extreme drought conditions.

Drought continues to strike the southern plains wheat crop. However, the wheat conditions in the northwest are positive, according to the U.S. Wheat Associates.

Tom Mick, Washington Wheat Commission CEO, reports the Washington soft white wheat crop is excellent. "The moisture situation can be classified as almost ideal," he says, and "harvest will begin around the second week in July and will run through mid-September." The same situation exists for HRW and HRS, but Mick cautions that it is "way too early to determine what effect the moisture situation will have on protein." Yields for all three classes should be good to excellent.

Idaho wheat conditions are generally good to excellent, with only 4% of the winter wheat and 2% of the spring wheat rated as poor. There are some differences between Idaho's regions, however. According to reports from commissioners with the Idaho Wheat Commission, the winter wheat crop looks good in eastern Idaho and excellent in southern Idaho, but it appears to decline as you go further north, with a northern Idaho report that "winter wheat is too wet and is not doing well." The spring wheat has emerged, and reports are generally favorable.

Further east, many areas in Montana have received some substantial rains, starting on Memorial Day weekend, and these rains have been a salvation for most growers. Cheryl Tuck, Montana Wheat and Barley Committee operations manager, tells USW that "for the most part, winter and spring wheat are both looking good in our Golden Triangle area. I even heard the adjective 'amazing' applied to potential for spring wheat. However, farmers up along our hi-line border with Canada (Cut Bank) have only received 52% of normal precipitation, as of Tuesday."

Durum wheat also doing well

The Desert Durum harvest is progressing quickly, according to Bonnie Fernandez and Allan Simons, the directors of the wheat commissions in California and Arizona. As usually expected in the desert this time of year, the weather has been ideal for harvesting (dry and warm).

Temperatures have been averaging from 97 degrees Fahrenheit to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. There are three predominate areas of production: the Imperial Valley (California), YumaValley (Western Arizona) and Central Arizona. Harvest is approximately 90% complete in the Imperial Valley, 40-50% complete in Central Arizona and 35% complete in Western Arizona. Yields have been high due to a cooler than normal growing season allowing for heavy grain fill. Protein levels are averaging 13%, test weights 61-63 lbs/bu (78.8 kg/hl - 82.0 kg/hl). Majority of crop is grading US No. 1.

North Dakota Wheat Commission marketing director Jim Peterson reports that the 2006 hard red spring and durum wheat crops in North Dakota are mostly rated as good to excellent condition, although condition ratings for the HRS crop have declined in recent weeks due to moderate to severe drought conditions which are stressing crops in the south central and central parts of the state.

"These areas are in critical need of additional precipitation and in general, more rain would be welcome in other parts as well since nearly all of the state is 20 to 50% below normal for seasonal precipitation, with the exception of far western areas," Peterson says. Over one half of the spring wheat crop is now at the jointing stage or beyond (moving from emergence stage to taller grass stage) with even 4% at the heading stage. The durum crop is still mostly in the late emergence stage but 20% is jointed or beyond. Given the stronger market signals for additional acres, many producers indicated additional spring wheat plantings but final durum acres are likely to be well below a year ago.

Hope of drought recovering diminishes

Any remote hope that the southern plains could emerge unharmed from the disastrous drought situation is over.

With the harvest, north central Oklahoma had - relatively speaking - the best wheat in the state and elevator managers indicate they will probably be at about 70% of normal grain receipts. Elsewhere, abandonment rates were very high and yields were down substantially as the plants struggled. Oklahoma Wheat Commission director Mark Hodges explains that because of severe stress, virtually all of the state's wheat went into "pure survival mode and not maximum production mode."

As a result, he says, "heads were only about one-half the normal size and about half as many in number." All is not totally lost, however, since Oklahoma received very limited precipitation in March. Although it came too late for wheat in SW Oklahoma, "as you moved northward there appears to have been some benefit - not in added bushels, but in the quality of the crop, i.e. test weight and 1000 kernel weight," Hodges told USW. "Wheat continues to be an amazing plant... Two months ago I was worried we would have 70 million bushels of "feed wheat." It appears that it isn't quite that bad.

Colorado's dryland crops, including wheat, continue to suffer. Topsoil moisture supplies decreased substantially last week, and are now rated at 41% very short and 43% short. Subsoil moisture supplies again declined and were rated at 43% very short, and 42% short. The winter wheat crop is rated in mostly poor to very poor condition, and is continuing to deteriorate in the condition rating system. The spring wheat crop is generally rated in good to fair condition.

Soil moisture conditions in Nebraska continued to deteriorate. Wheat conditions slipped further and rated 24% very poor, 27 poor, 32 fair, 15 good, and 2 excellent. This continues to be well below last year. Forty-nine percent of the wheat was turning color compared to 18 last year and 23 average. Harvest was expected to begin in southwestern counties the third full week of June

Kansas wheat is experiencing problems, with 57% of the state's topsoil rated short or very short of moisture. Half of the wheat growing conditions are rated poor or very poor. Harvest is underway throughout most of Kansas with the possibility of the southern tier finishing up by weekend, according to Kansas Wheat Commission administrator Dusti Fritz. "As expected, yields have been lower than average ranging from single digits to mid-50s" she reports. There seems to be a marked difference between continuous crop and summer-fallow, with the summer-fallow holding up better. Despite the yield challenges, Fritz says that preliminary quality reports indicate very good test weights and protein.


TAGS: Wheat
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