US farmers upped their gamble that rains will refresh winter wheat, catching up on seedings, even as lingering dryness slowed crop development and worsened the condition of seedlings in the top growing state.
Growers sowed 10% of their winter wheat last week, putting themselves, at 81% completion, narrowly ahead of the average for the time of year, despite a slow start, US Department of Agriculture showed.
However, crop emergence, at 49%, remained behind the typical pace, particularly in more northerly areas.
In Nebraska, emergence was 29 points behind average "due to dry soils", USDA officials said, while the South Dakota crop was lagging by 67 points.
At Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Luke Mathews said: "The slow rate of emergence is of particular concern in the dry northern hard red winter wheat belt.
"These crops will be poorly established leading into winter dormancy."
'Dry, windy and warm'
In Kansas, the main US wheat-growing state, the "dry, windy and warm" weather last week which USDA scouts said allowed farmers to "start wrapping up wheat planting" also tested the condition of the emerging crop.
The Kansas crop was rated 40% in "good" or "excellent" condition, down two points on last week's initial reading, and below the 43% a year ago which was itself considered a historically low number.
Wheat emergence in selected US states and (difference from average)
Missouri: 34%, (+12 points)
Kansas: 62%, (+1 points)
Colorado: 66%, (-16 points)
Nebraska: 58%, (-29 points)
Montana: 36%, (-31 points)
South Dakota: 13%, (-67 points)
National: 49%, (-7 points)
While still early in the growing period, and following a season when Kansas achieved a strong wheat yield despite a poor start, October condition data can be a guide to future prospects.
In the previous 11 years, Kansas wheat did not improve post-dormancy compared with its condition at the end of October, research by Australia & New Zealand Bank shows.
At broker Linn Group, Roy Huckabay told Agrimoney.com: "Germination and the need to get that wheat up and growing is importance," given the imminence of winter.
"We are looking at snow in parts of Kanasas in the next two nights."
Indeed, the extent of the challenge facing winter wheat seedlings is highlighted by official data showing that 100% of Kansas is in at least moderate drought, with 78% suffering dryness deemed "exceptional" or "extreme".
"Wheat conditions have grown dry in the main US bread wheat states in October," Gail Martell at US-based Martell Crop Projections said.
"Some areas in Oklahoma and southern Kansas have received less than 15% of normal rainfall.
"Gusty winds last week whipped up dry fields producing a dust veil from southwest Nebraska through Kansas into Oklahoma."
In Nebraska and South Dakota too, 100% of area is suffering drought, according to official data, although dryness is easing in some southern states, such as Texas, where the proportion has eased to 62%.
In the Corn Belt, 100% of Iowa, the top corn and soybean state, is in drought, but 63% in Illinois, and 25% in Indiana, where growing conditions were especially poor earlier in the year.