Winter wheat plantings estimate falls well below expectations

by Jay Sjerven
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Winter wheat
2016 winter wheat area was estimated to be the smallest since 1913.

WASHINGTON — The National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 12 estimated winter wheat plantings for harvest in 2016 at 36,609,000 acres, down 7% from 39,461,000 acres in 2015 and down 14% from 42,409,000 acres in 2014. The winter wheat area would be the smallest since 36,578,000 acres in 2010 and compared with 41,319,000 acres as the recent five-year average.

With the exception of 2010, the 2016 winter wheat area was estimated to be the smallest since 1913. The estimate was well below the average of pre-report trade estimates at 39.3 million acres. The abysmal number ignited a rally in wheat futures, which had been hovering not far above contract and multi-year lows.

The largest decline from the previous year was in hard red winter wheat plantings. The U.S.D.A. estimated the hard red winter wheat area at 26.5 million acres, down 9% from 2015. It would be the smallest hard winter wheat area in records extending back to 1986.

The U.S.D.A. commented, “Planted acreage (hard red winter) is down from last year across most of the growing region. The largest declines in planted acreage are estimated in the Great Plains states. Record low acreage was seeded in Nebraska.”

Kansas and Texas saw the largest decline in hard red winter wheat area as measured in acres. The Kansas winter wheat area was estimated at 8,500,000 acres, down 700,000 acres, or 8%, from 9,200,000 acres in 2015. The Texas winter wheat area was estimated at 5,300,000 acres, down 700,000 acres, or 12%, from 6,000,000 acres in 2015.

The U.S.D.A. estimated soft red winter wheat plantings at 6.72 million acres, down 5% from 2015. It was the smallest area planted to soft red winter wheat since 4,857,000 acres in 2010.

The U.S.D.A. said, “Acreage decreases from last year are estimated in most southern soft red winter wheat growing area states, while most of the states in the northern half of the region seeded more acres than in 2015. Record low acreage was seeded in New Jersey.”

Estimated seedings across the Southeast at 2,635,000 acres were down 17% from 3,180,000 acres in 2015.

White winter wheat plantings were estimated at nearly 3.43 million acres, up 1% from 2015. The U.S.D.A. said, “Planting in the Pacific Northwest got off to a normal start, but by the middle of October, progress was behind the five-year average pace in Idaho and Washington. By Nov. 9, seeding was virtually complete in the region.”

Seedings of durum wheat in Arizona and California for 2016 harvest were estimated at 140,000 acres, down 33% from 2015 but up 20% from 2014. The U.S.D.A. noted, “No major problems in the development of the crop have been reported. Favorable planting conditions were reported in the San Joaquin Valley and Imperial Valley.”
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