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Dry-wet divide to deepen in US, keeping pressure on winter wheat crops

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The US looks set for more of the wet-dry weather extremes dogging southern areas – and both posing threats for winter wheat crops, which face tests from too much rain as well as too little.


This week, dryness which is testing much of the southern Plains hard red winter wheat crop “will remain extensive across much of Kansas, western Oklahoma, north western Texas, and south eastern Colorado”, said Radiant Solutions.


Terry Reilly at Futures International, quoting a World Weather outlook, said that “US hard red winter wheat production areas will receive very little rain over the next 10 days”.


Tobin Gorey at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said that “weather forecasters continue to look for scant rain and unseasonably warm temperatures for a large proportion of US hard red winter wheat crops.


“The news will nourish market worries about these crops.”


‘High disease pressure’


By contrast, the southern Midwest and Delta region is placed for more of the inundations which have left many areas too wet for fieldwork, just as the spring sowings window is beginning to open, and as some talk of pests and diseases is growing in winter wheat crops.


“Drier weather in the southern Midwest and Delta through mid-week should allow wetness to ease a bit,” said Radiant Solutions.


“But showers there by the end of the week and into the six-to-10 day period will once again stall drying of soils.


“Disease pressure will remain high for wheat as well.”


Kansas deterioration


The outlook comes as winter wheat crops are emerging from winter dormancy, raising the importance of growing conditions.


US Department of Agriculture briefings overnight highlighted the impact of weather on winter wheat crop health, showing a further deterioration in the reading for Kansas, the top growing state, and a producer of hard red winter wheat.


The proportion of Kansas wheat rated good or excellent as of Sunday was, at 12%, down 1 point week on week, and at by far the lowest level for mid-March on readily available data going back to 2007.


For Oklahoma, the reading rose by 1 point week on week but, at 7%, remained historically low, as the state “received little to no rainfall over the past week” to follow up on some precipitation the week before.


Twin-track Texas


In Texas, the reading was, at 13%, also week, although up 3 points week on week, with the state receiving some of the downpour more common further east.


While some parts of east Texas and the Upper Coast area received “upwards of 2.0 inches” of rain last week, most of the state “received marginal to no measurable rain”.


The divergence has been evident in crop condition, with USDA scouts reporting that a “lack of rain continued to impede optimal growing conditions for small grain crops across the Plains.


“Meanwhile, conditions in the Blacklands and South Texas continued to improve.”


‘Insects already showing up’


Further east, in Louisiana, by contrast, in the soft red winter wheat belt, USDA scouts reported that precipitation “was spread throughout the state” last week, adding to wetness which was seen in many areas as slowing early corn sowings.


Still, the moisture has helped improve winter wheat condition, pegged at 36% good or excellent by officials, in their first rating of 2018, compared with a late-November figure of 24%.


For neighbouring Mississippi, the first winter wheat rating of November came in at 45% good or excellent, although that represented a sharp decline from a late-November figure of 67%.


The drop came amid reports from scouts of wet conditions, with 70% of topsoil deemed to have “surplus” moisture, hampering fertilizer and agrichemical applications, at a time when some weeds and pests are appearing.


One USDA scout reported that “producers struggled to make nitrogen and herbicide applications in a timely manner.


“Insects were already showing up in wheat, cover crops, and winter weeds.”

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