Big variations in Feb. winter wheat ratings

by Laura Lloyd
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KANSAS CITY – Most hard red winter wheat growing states, as well as some hard red spring states and some soft red winter wheat states, released February crop condition ratings on March 3, the first of the 2013-14 growing season.

Results in top hard red winter wheat-producing Kansas were somewhat better than at the same period a year ago. But conditions were viewed as less favorable than before dormancy, when market participants said the new crop had gotten off to the best start in many years.

The period of dormancy has been marked with spates of extremely cold winter temperatures, sometimes with the benefit of snow cover. There have been concerns about possible winterkill in regions where snow cover has been lacking. Wheat experts have pointed out that, until the new crop greens this spring, it will be impossible to know if there has been any weather-related damage.

The Kansas field office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 4% of the new crop was rated very poor, 18% poor, 44% fair, 32% poor and 2% excellent. That compares with February results in 2013 from the U.S.D.A. rating the 2013 crop at 12% very poor, 23% poor, 41% fair, 23% good and 1% excellent.

At the end of January, 2014, the U.S.D.A. field office in Kansas said the state’s wheat conditions was 35% good to excellent (58% a month earlier), 45% fair and 20% poor to very poor.

The U.S.D.A. said, “For the month of February 2014, cold, snowy weather at the beginning of the month resulted in over a foot in some northeast areas.”

As a result, monthly precipitation totals were within ½ inch of normal across much of Kansas. But average temperatures were in most cases averaging six to 10 degrees colder than normal. With snow melt, wheat fields began to green and show signs of growth, the U.S.D.A. said.

The U.S.D.A. field office in Oklahoma reported winter wheat conditions for February as: 6% very poor, 25% poor, 38% fair, 28% good and 3% excellent. The state continued to grapple with drought conditions and high winds. The field office said that, “according to the most recent drought monitor, the majority of the state was rated severe drought to abnormally dry, while the Panhandle and the far Southwest districts were rated in extreme to exceptional drought.”

The Texas U.S.D.A. field service reported February crop conditions for its winter wheat crop and said soil moisture improved in the Northern High Plains because precipitation was received. The U.S.D.A. said 16% of the crop was in very poor condition, 30% was in poor condition, 39% was in fair condition, 14% was in good condition and 1% was in excellent condition.

Nebraska, another key hard red winter wheat state, reported temperatures at 6@9 degrees below normal in February amid soil conditions that were 57% short to very short of moisture. The U.S.D.A. field office said winter wheat conditions in Nebraska were rated 3% very poor, 15% poor, 39% fair, 36% good and 7% excellent.

South Dakota grappled with below-normal temperatures and precipitation in February. The winter wheat crop was rated 4% very poor, 7% poor, 26% fair, 58% good and 5% excellent, the U.S.D.A. field office said.

In Montana, the U.S.D.A. field office said that 53% of the winter wheat crop was rated good to excellent in February, compared to 38% in the same period a year ago. Other ratings were 1% very poor, 8% poor, 38% fair, 42% good and 11% excellent. The field office said “Winter damage remains slightly higher than last year due to high winds and periods of sustained subzero weather.”

In Illinois, where soft red winter wheat is cultivated, the U.S.D.A. field office pegged the crop at 1% very poor, 5% poor, 40% fair, 50% good and 4% excellent. Field offices in other soft red winter wheat states such as Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and Michigan, have not yet updated their crop condition reports t for February.
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