Winter wheat forecast down slightly in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP)--The nation's farmers are expected to harvest a 20 percent smaller winter wheat crop this season amid huge crop losses from drought and a spring freeze in Texas and Oklahoma amid fewer planted acres, the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said May 12.
But in Kansas, the nation's largest wheat-producing state, the winter wheat crop was expected to be down only 4 percent from a year ago. The state was spared much of the freeze damage because its wheat was less mature and, therefore, less vulnerable when temperatures dipped below freezing in April. Cool, wet weather since then also helped the Kansas wheat crop recover.
Nationwide, winter wheat production is forecast at 1.5 billion bushels, down 20 percent. The nation's production is expected to come from 34 million acres with average yields of 44 bushels per acre. Winter wheat acreage this season is down 14 percent.
"The drought really got Texas and it was the freeze that finished up the better Oklahoma wheat producing areas. And southern Kansas was touched by the freeze, as well," said Mike Woolverton, grain marketing economist at Kansas State University.
The May 12 winter wheat forecast comes at a time when wet conditions are keeping farmers from planting their spring wheat. The window for spring-planted wheat typically ends by mid-May; after that, yield potential plummets because of hot weather during pollination, Woolverton said.
Wheat planting is far behind schedule in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, he said. Some farmers are now considering putting those acres, instead, into soybeans, which can be planted later in the season when their fields dry out.
Meanwhile, the projected Kansas winter wheat crop of 340 million bushels is down slightly from the 356 million bushels harvested a year ago. The expected production is still well above the freeze-plagued harvest of 2007 when Kansas took in just 283.8 million bushels.
This season's forecast for Kansas is based on 8.5 million harvested acres with yields averaging 40 bushels an acre, KASS reported. Winter wheat is planted in the fall.
"I am bullish on wheat, although we just came off an all-time record large wheat production," Woolverton said. "There is still some of that wheat left, but it is not very good quality--a lot of what is left. The world is short of good, quality wheat and I think they are going to come to the Great Plains to get it."
Among the nation's top 10 winter wheat producing states, only Colorado and Washington were forecast to have bigger crops this season than a year ago. The Colorado crop was expected to be 29 percent larger, while Washington was looking at a 6 percent bigger harvest.
A breakdown by states also shows Oklahoma is expected to harvest 80.5 million bushels, down 52 percent from a year ago when growers brought in 166.5 million bushels. Nebraska was forecast to be down 9 percent at 67.2 million bushels.
Texas growers are facing a second-straight year of crop losses. Its 2009 crop forecast of 64.8 million bushels is down from both the 99 million bushels harvested in 2008 and the 140.6 million bushels in 2007.
In Kansas, a regional breakdown forecast smaller winter wheat crops in the three central districts and the southeast part of the state, but slightly bigger harvests than a year ago in the rest of the state.
"I don't think we are going to see a dramatic increase in wheat prices, but I think the stage is set for an increase in wheat prices--particularly as the global economy recovers and demand comes back," Woolverton said.