The condition of winter wheat, whose deterioration has
fuelled a rise in prices, continued its decline in the US southern Plains
thanks to a dearth of rainfall, whose severity is becoming more serious as
crops break dormancy.
The proportion of wheat in Kansas, the top US wheat
producing state, rated "good" or "excellent" fell by 1 point to 33% in the week
to Sunday, US Department of Agriculture of scouts said.
"Soil moisture supplies continued their downward trend with
less than half of the state reporting adequate supplies," the scouts said,
underlining the market talk of "dust bowl" conditions in the region.
"Windy conditions were again noted with soils blowing in
portions of the western half of the state."
In Oklahoma, where the proportion of wheat rated
good or excellent fell 1 point to 17%, scouts also noted that "low moisture and high
winds were a major concern", with winds reaching speeds of 40mph.
Besides keeping field work "to a minimum", the winds caused "erosion
and dust storms" in some parts of the state.
"Significant moisture is needed across the whole state… for
winter wheat development."
The conditions trimmed by one point to just 8% the proportion
of Oklahoma canola rated good, with none seen as being in excellent health.
'Signs of stress'
In neighbouring Texas, the proportion of winter wheat rated
good or excellent dropped by two points week on week to 11%.
"Wheat in very poor or poor condition now makes up more than
half of the crop," Mark Welch at Texas A&M University noted, highlighting that
a composite rating of Texas winter wheat, at 239, was well below the average of
more than 300 at this time of year.
USDA scouts in Texas, flagging dust storms too in parts of
the state, said that winter wheat in the southern low plains and Edwards
Plateau was showing "signs of stress brought on by dry, windy conditions".
'Half an inch at best'
Nor is much rain relief expected in the southern Plains for
now, with Dr Welch flagging that "the precipitation forecast for the next 5-to-7
days calls for most areas to receive an additional half an inch at best".
This following limited precipitation so far this month, when
"much of the hard red production area has seen less than half inch of rain".
At Country Futures, a broker based in Kansas state, Darrell
Holaday noted that the GFS weather model "over the weekend became significantly
drier in the southern Plains for next week", a factor which "prompted a lot
wheat buying" on Monday, when Chicago futures jumped 3%.
The lack of rainfall is beginning to pose a more serious threat to yield potential as crops break from winter dormancy, entering
spring growth which is a far more water-intensive stage of development.
Weather service MDA said that "dryness will remain extensive
across central and south western [Plains] areas, which will stress wheat as it
"The continued dry pattern across the central and southern
Plains will allow moisture shortages to persist and stress to build on wheat as
spring growth accelerates."
Indeed, warmers temperatures ahead will "allow soil
temperatures to rise, which will accelerate wheat early growth".