Hard winter wheat ratings mostly decline in January

by Ron Sterk
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KANSAS CITY — Condition ratings for winter wheat declined during January from already low levels at the start of the month in Kansas and Oklahoma, while most other hard winter wheat states also had concerns about soil moisture or the lack of protective snow cover. Wheat conditions were well below year ago levels in most hard red winter states.

“Limited moisture in most areas caused the condition of winter wheat to decline during January,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture field office in Kansas said in its monthly Crop Progress and Condition update. The Kansas crop was rated 39% poor to very poor, 41% fair and 20% good to excellent compared with 31% poor to very poor, 45% fair and 24% good to excellent at the end of December.

“Conditions of all small grains and canola declined over the past month and were rated mostly poor to very poor,” the Oklahoma U.S.D.A. field office said. Winter wheat in Oklahoma was rated 69% poor to very poor, 26% fair and 5% good at the end of January compared with 61% poor to very poor, 28% fair and 11% good a month earlier.

“Wheat condition continued well below year ago levels with most of the crop rated fair to poor,” the U.S.D.A. field office in Nebraska said. The crop there was rated 50% poor to very poor, 42% fair and 8% good compared with 49% poor to very poor, 37% fair and 14% good at the end of December.

“Some producers have been concerned about the lack of snow cover protection for the winter wheat,” the field office in South Dakota said. The state’s winter wheat was rated 66% poor to very poor, 31% fair and 3% good.

And the Wyoming U.S.D.A. field office noted winter wheat conditions also declined slightly in that state. Wyoming winter wheat was rated 31% poor to very poor, 43% fair and 26% good.

The Montana U.S.D.A. field office rated the state’s winter wheat 9% poor to very poor, 50% fair and 41% good to excellent, little changed from a month earlier and one of the few states with ratings above year ago levels.

Veteran crop analysts maintain that spring moisture, not over-winter condition ratings, is the key determinant of winter wheat yields and production. But they also have noted that the extremely poor conditions and low soil moisture levels leave little room for anything but nearly ideal spring weather.

Not all states producing hard winter wheat issued monthly crop updates for January, and most soft winter wheat states did not release updates. Conditions are vastly different across most of the soft winter wheat states with moisture levels adequate to even excessive in some areas.

The winter wheat crop in Illinois was rated 3% poor, 30% fair and 67% good to excellent at the end of January.
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