US winter wheat is facing more of the dryness which is seeing it enter dormancy, and face the test of winter cold, at its worst condition in five years, according to official ratings.
In its last weekly crop condition report for this year, the US Department of Agriculture reduced its estimate of wheat production rated “good” or “excellent” by two percentage points week on week to 50%, as of Sunday.
The decline comes amid dryness affecting several major producing states in the Plains, the main region for growing hard red winter wheat, and without the prospect of rain relief.
According to weather service MDA, dry conditions are likely to continue as "precipitation will remain limited across the central US this week", and "no significant improvements in soil moisture are expected".
Terry Reilly at broker Futures International said that “US hard red winter wheat wheat country will see net drying over the next week although the central Plains “could see up to 0.20 inches of rain” on Thursday.
He added that the cut in the USDA’s wheat rating "may limit downside” in wheat futures, which in fact made modest headway in early deals in Chicago.
’No measurable precipitation’
The USDA, in its last weekly rating of the US winter wheat crop of 2018, showed a third successive week on week decline in the condition rating to a figure below the average of 54% for a final pre-winter reading.
The drop included a decline of 5 points to 51% in the proportion of wheat in Kansas, the top producing state, rated good or excellent, amid dry and warm conditions.
Kansas received “no measurable precipitation, with temperatures averaging 8-12 degrees above normal”, USDA scouts said.
The proportion of topsoil in the state rated “short” or “very short” of moisture increased from 30% to 39% week on week.
’Remain a concern’
Likewise, the good or excellent crop reading in Oklahoma, the second-largest producing state, dropped by seven points to 30%, with officials citing "almost no measurable precipitation over the last week".
In Montana, ratings fell by 3 points to 33%, compared to 77% at this time last year, as the prevalence of below-adequate subsoil moisture rose to 64%.
And the rating further deteriorated in Texas, by five points to 36%, with the USDA highlighting that producers "were in need of precipitation to continue seeding operations".
After seeing good conditions in the last couple of weeks, dry weather has also caused some concern in Colorado, with warm temperatures resulting in stress in certain regions, with the good or excellent reading dropping from 73% to 66% week on week.
“Kansas and Colorado remain a concern where winter crops are not well established,” Mr Reilly said.
In Washington state, however, which grows in the main white wheat, crop conditions improved significantly, with a 12-point increase to 88% rated “good” or “excellent” amid consistent rains and warmer temperatures.
Beneficial conditions were also seen in Ohio, a major grower of soft red winter wheat, where the rating back to an 88% rating after dropping slightly last week.
The next weekly USDA crop progress report is expected in April 2018.