The condition of the US winter wheat crop in major producing
states, including top grower Kansas, has tumbled amid reviving drought, which
denied seedlings the snow cover to protect them from bitter winter
The proportion of winter wheat rated "good" or "excellent"
in Kansas has fallen to 35%, from 58% at the end of December, US Department of
Agriculture scouts said.
While still significantly better than the 20% of winter
wheat rated good or excellent a year ago, when all farms in the state were
rated as suffering from drought, the figure is still below the average of 47% at
the end of January for the previous five years.
And it represents an unusually sharp decline in condition
for a state typically responsible for more than 15% of total US wheat production,
and well over 20% of the national winter wheat harvest.
The deterioration came in a period in which all but the
western one-third of the state saw "cooler-than-normal" temperatures, the USDA
said, in the month which brought the US the so-called polar vortex which
brought parts of the country to a standstill.
However, "most of the state saw less than half the normal
precipitation", the USDA said.
The proportion of Kansas officially rated as being in
drought has risen by 16 points to 63% so far this year, with the rest of the
state seen as "abnormally dry".
With snow offering protection to winter crops from colder
air temperatures, "farmers in areas with little or no snow cover were concerned
with winterkill in their wheat crop," the scouts said.
Nebraska, Texas too
And crop condition in other central and southern Plains
states - like Kansas, producers in particularly of hard red winter wheat - has
In Texas, 19% of wheat was rated good or excellent as of
Monday, down four points week on week.
The proportion of the Nebraska winter wheat crop rated in
the top two condition bands was, at 46%, down 19 points so far this year.
In Nebraska and Texas, drought has spread in 2014 too, albeit
more slowly than in Kansas, and covering a smaller area of a little less than one-half
of the states.
Indeed, dryness remains in both states well below levels seen a year ago, when the US was recovering from its worst drought in a generation.
However, concerns over further damage to the crops from
fresh cold weather expected in the US week have eased with ideas that it will
be preceded by snow, offering winter wheat seedlings protection.
"Snow cover has begun to build across the north central and
southern Plains and Midwest, and should build further across the central Plains
and central Midwest this week," weather service MDA said.
"The increase in snow cover will continue to build
winterkill protection for wheat as temperatures remain cold."
Furthermore, it will boost soil moisture too, "and will be
most beneficial in the Plains", the weather service said.
At broker Benson Quinn Commodities, Brian Henry said: "The
system moving through the southern plains will offer 4-5 inches of snow in
western regions and increasing totals as it moves east.
"For many of these regions, increased precipitation in any
form is welcome as a better moisture profile would benefit winter wheat that
may have been damaged on previous cold snaps.
"Additionally, better snow pack would benefit the crop
through the cold snap later this week."
CHS Hedging said: "Snow and forecasted snow in US winter
wheat growing regions should reduce winterkill risks, as frigid temperatures
once again take over this week."
On the markets, soft red winter wheat, as grown largely in
the Midwest, eased 0.2% to $5.62 ½ a bushel in Chicago for March delivery, as
of 05:15 local time (11:15 UK time).
Hard red winter wheat for March was 0.2% higher at $6.25 ¾ a
bushel in Kansas City.