US winter wheat condition made a surprise easing, undermined by the spread of dryness, and at a key period for crop development, as temperatures fall into the winter.
The proportion of US winter wheat rated “good” or “excellent” eased by 1 point to 54% as of Sunday, the US Department of Agriculture said, contrasting with investor expectations of a 1-point increase.
The drop came mainly in Plains states growing hard red winter wheat, traded as Kansas City wheat, although the crop in Illinois, which grows the soft red winter wheat traded in Chicago, took a steep tumble, of 6 points to 54% rated good or excellent.
In Missouri, another major soft red winter wheat growing state, the proportion rated good or excellent dropped by 7 points to 57%, with USDA scouts noting that “cool temperatures and dry weather were prevalent again”.
Nonetheless, the lowest readings remained in hard red winter wheat states, including South Dakota, where the good or excellent figure dropped 5 points to just 14%.
USDA scouts noted “minimal precipitation” in South Dakota last week, besides below-average temperatures, and a revival in soil moisture deficits, with half of subsoil rated “short” or “very short” of moisture and 40% of topsoil, up 4 points week on week.
In Montana, where 68% of subsoil is short or very short, the proportion of wheat rated good or excellent fell by 4 points to 39%, amid “snow and cold throughout the state”, which received temperatures as low as -17 Fahrenheit (-27 Celsius).
Crop condition also eased in Kansas, the top wheat-growing sate, by 3 points to 56% rated good or excellent, as “rainfall totals remained at or near zero throughout the entire state”, and “temperatures averaged eight to 10 degrees below normal” in Fahrenheit terms.
And further south in Texas, the rating eased by 3 points to 46%, as “crops suffered from a lack of precipitation in some areas of the Cross Timbers, the Blacklands and South Texas”, officials said.
“Even with the dry conditions, producers in the Blacklands and South Texas continued reseeding wheat.”
However, in Colorado, the reading rose by 5 points week on week to 70%, amid “wetter conditions”, with the Washington crop showing 5-point improvement to 87% good or excellent.
In Washington state, “early winter conditions arrived, bringing field work to a crawl in some parts as others prepared for winter and more snow”, scouts said.
Indeed, the condition of wheat at this time of year is seen as having an influence on yield prospects for next year, in determining in part how well crops cope with winter cold.