Winter wheat conditions vary, as drought threatens crops in SW
By Daniel Enoch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2014 - About 62 percent of the U.S. winter wheat crop was in good or fair condition as of April 20, the same percentage as a year earlier, according to USDA. But conditions varied widely.
In South Dakota, 94 percent of the crop was rated good or excellent, USDA said Monday in a weekly report. Farmers there said plants appear to have been little affected by a hard freeze early last week, with overnight temperatures dropping well below zero for an extended period.
Still, wet conditions early last fall, when the crop was planted, followed by an out-of-season blizzard in October, may have stunted growth in some fields.
“We're about two, two and a-half weeks behind where we should be,” said Claire Stymiest, an agronomist and consultant for Ron Offutt, who has a 40,000-acre spread near Rapid City, with about 20,700 acres sown with winter wheat. “The crop's vigor is not where we should be.”
Conditions were not so good in Kansas, the biggest grower of winter wheat, and in Oklahoma and Texas, where many growers are trying to cope with a multiyear drought. In Kansas, almost a third of the crop was rated poor or very poor.
Thayne Larson, of Bestiform Farms near Belleville in north-central, Kansas, said the dry conditions are the worst he's seen in 40 years of farming. “We are living on the edge with this wheat crop,” he said in an e-mail response to questions from Agri-Pulse.
In Oklahoma, 61 percent of the crop was said to be in poor or very poor condition. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau said topsoil conditions in the state were rated 75 percent short to very short of moisture. The winter wheat in Texas had the worst ratings in the country - with 27 percent in very poor condition and 38 percent in poor condition.
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