Winter delivered a powerful parting shot in the form of a major storm that rolled across the nation’s midsection late last week bringing heavy rain and snow to the key winter wheat states. The storm brought moisture but little threat of winterkill to a hard winter wheat crop that broke dormancy and was greening across most of the Southwest. The soft red winter wheat crop across the Central states also received heavy precipitation. There was no lack of moisture anywhere in the key winter wheat states.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture won’t begin issuing weekly Crop Progress and Condition reports until April, the reports issued with increasing frequency by individual hard winter wheat states indicated a crop that survived the winter in very good condition and was poised with ample moisture to make a strong start to the 2010 growing season.

The U.S.D.A. rated the condition of the Kansas crop on March 14 at 63% good to excellent, 29% fair and 8% poor to very poor compared with 53% good to excellent, 35% fair and 12% poor to very poor at the end of February. The trend of improving wheat condition ratings was evident in Oklahoma and Texas as well.

The soft red winter crop was in more difficult straits with regard to condition ratings largely because of late planting during a wet autumn. Weekly crop condition ratings for most soft red winter states won’t be reported until April, but Illinois provided ratings for the end of February with the crop there at 2% excellent, 26% good, 49% fair, 19% poor and 4% very poor. Wheat conditions at the eastern end of the soft red winter wheat belt were no better. The U.S.D.A. rated the condition of North Carolina’s wheat crop on March 14 at 20% good, 42% fair, 28% poor and 10% very poor.

Soft wheat millers were to gather in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., March 20-23 to review prospects for the 2010-11 crop year with a crop forecast to be developed for distribution this week.

Trade considers plantings outlook

With the winter wheat crop beginning its growing season in key states, the market turned an eye to spring planting. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue its Prospective Plantings report on March 31.

The U.S.D.A.’s preliminary forecasts for spring plantings in 2010 were issued at the Agricultural Outlook Forum held in mid-February in Washington. The U.S.D.A. on that occasion forecast corn plantings this spring at 89 million acres, up 2.5 million acres from 2009 and compared with the record planted area of 93.5 million acres in 2007. Crop analysts participating in a food and agriculture summit sponsored by Reuters in Chicago last week forecast corn plantings this spring even higher at 89.3 million to 91 million acres.

The U.S.D.A. at the February forum preliminarily projected soybean plantings in 2010 at 77 million acres, down 500,000 acres from the record 77.5 million acres seeded in 2009. The trade analysts in Chicago forecast soybean planted area at 76.5 million to 78.7 million acres.