WASHINGTON — In its initial aggregate winter wheat condition report of the spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated the crop 35% good to excellent, 36% fair and 29% poor to very poor as of April 6, nearly identical to the first ratings of the spring last year. But the ratings are well below the final numbers from last fall as the current crop was rated much higher at 62% good to excellent, 30% fair and 8% poor to very poor as it was entering dormancy.
Drilling down further reveals where the trouble spots are, with top-producing Kansas on April 6 at 29% good to excellent (63% last fall) and 27% poor to very poor (4%), Oklahoma at 15% good to excellent (77% last fall) and 48% poor to very poor (5%) and Texas at 13% good to excellent (32% last fall) and 61% poor to very poor (28%). Of the seven major hard red winter wheat states, only Montana had higher condition ratings in April than in the fall.
Western Kansas and parts of southeast Colorado and western Nebraska were in severe to extreme drought as of April 1, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center’s Drought Monitor map. Even worse were the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas and western Oklahoma that were in extreme to exceptional drought.
The seven main soft winter wheat states of the Southeast and Central states also had April 6 ratings below the final ratings of last fall, but not to the extent seen in most of the hard winter region. The Eastern Corn Belt has had a better moisture profile than the southern Plains.
The soft winter wheat states of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio are not experiencing any significant levels of drought, according to the most recent Drought Monitor map.
Winter wheat ratings in Oregon and Washington also were down sharply from last fall, reflecting recent drought conditions, although those states have received significant rainfall recently.