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Cold, dry December takes toll on US winter wheat condition

Crop reports from key US winter wheat-growing states reveal the extent of crop damage, after a cold and dry period.

Percentage of wheat crop rated good or excellent


End of December               40

Nov. 27                                 47

Year-ago                               54


End of December               69

Nov. 27                                70

Year-ago                              58


End of December              44

Nov. 27                                52

Year-ago                              54


End of December              58

Nov. 27                                77

Year-ago                              74


End of December               46

Nov. 27                                 53

Year-ago                               59

North Dakota    

End of December                83

Nov. 27                                  78

Year-ago                                71


End of December                 25

Nov. 27                                   53

Year-ago                                 77

South Dakota    

End of December                 56

Nov. 27                                   51

Year-ago                                 71

Source: USDA

The US Department of Agriculture saw just 25% of the Oklahoma winter wheat crop in good or excellent condition for the month ended December 31.

This compares to 77% this time a year ago, and 53% good-or-excellent condition in the last report, for the week to November 27.

"Oklahoma experienced cold and dry weather for the month of December," the USDA said.

Kansas, Montana suffer

Similar declines were seen in other wheat states.

44% of the Kansas wheat crop was seen as good to excellent, down from 52% at the end of November and 10 points below the rating this time a year ago.

"For the month of December 2016, near-normal temperatures were experienced in eastern Kansas, whereas the west experienced temperatures from three to five degrees below normal," said the USDA.

"Most of the State remained dry, prompting some concerns over the development of winter wheat."

In Montana, the conditions dropped 15 points over the period, to 58% good-or-excellent, while crop conditions in Colorado dropped 7 points, to 40% good-or-excellent.

For Colorado, the USDA said "reporters in eastern districts noted that lack of winter snow cover, coupled with cold and mostly dry conditions, is a concern for the health of winter wheat stands".

Cold snap to intensify

More cold weather is on its way for parts of the US Plains, although there are hopes that snow coverage will arrive in time to protect the winter wheat crop.  

"Snow is expected to develop across western Nebraska and northern Colorado tomorrow and will favour south-eastern Colorado, western Kansas, and western Oklahoma, and northwestern Texas on Thursday and Friday," said Kyle Tapley, at MDA Weather Services.

"Snow cover is currently lacking in these areas, so the increased snow cover will be needed to protect the winter wheat crop from very cold weather later this week."

Drought fears to linger despite snow

Cold conditions are not expected to be long lasting, but drought may linger.

"Temperatures are expected to moderate quickly this weekend and next week, which will lower winterkill threats," Mr Tapley said.

"The snow over the next few days in the western Plains may slightly improve soil moisture, but drier weather will return this weekend and next week.

A more detailed insight into US wheat conditions will come in April, when the USDA resumes weekly national US crop condition and progress reports.

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