Winter wheat in America's top growing state has got off to a
worse start than in the previous two years, themselves poor for early crop
condition, stoking concerns over the "worrying" early progress of US seedlings.
US Department of Agriculture staff, in their first rating
for the Kansas winter wheat crop, placed 42% in "good" or "excellent"
condition, as of Sunday.
The figure was one point lower than the figure for October
16 last year, and the 45% in 2009 – numbers themselves considered weak, after
the first reading in 2009 came in at 73% good or excellent.
While still too early to make any judgements on the impact
of the weak start on final yield, Kansas wheat has typically not improved post-dormancy
compared with its condition at the end of October, with last year an exception
in producing a bumper yield after a poor start.
'More moisture still
While officials gave no indication of the reason for the
relatively poor start to crop condition, it comes amid lingering drought which has
hampered germination of seedlings in many US states.
"More moisture is still needed… to improve wheat emergence,"
the USDA scouts said, estimating 44% of the Kansas crop had emerged so far,
behind the average of 50%.
Nationwide, 44% of winter wheat, sown for harvest in
2013, has emerged, two points below the average for this time of year.
The slow pace of emergence "may create some concern about
establishment leading into winter, particularly in the northern plains were
significant moisture deficits persist", said Luke Mathews at Commonwealth Bank
In the northern plains state of South Dakota, only 11% of
winter wheat has emerged, compared with a typical rate of 67%, hurt by dryness
and below-normal temperatures.
Wheat emergence in selected US states and (difference from average)
Missouri: 19%, (+8 points)
Kansas: 44%, (-2 points)
Colorado: 51%, (-21 points)
Montana: 25%, (-28 points)
Nebraska: 47%, (-30 points)
South Dakota: 11%, (-56 points)
National: 36%, (-8 points)
"Temperatures cooled across the state during the week along with
scant precipitation… with very limited amounts [of rain] or none state-wide."
USDA scouts aid.
At broker FCStone, commodity risk consultant Michael O'Dea
termed the weak start to emergence as "worrying", if flagging the grain's
"You have to kill
wheat nine times before it dies," he said.
'Wheat plantings to
Mr O'Dea's comments, at the HGCA Grain Market Outlook conference
in London, came as he forecast a rise in winter wheat sowings of some 4-5% in areas
sowing hard red varieties, the majority of the US crop, and 5-10% in soft red
The extra hope for seedings of soft red winter wheat, the
type traded in Chicago and grown largely in the Midwest, reflected the ability
of farmers to plant follow-on soybean crops which, while offering relatively
low yields, looked a lucrative option given elevated prices.
"There are a lot of rewards on offer if they can double crop
beans in these soft wheat areas," Mr O'Dea said.