The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Oct. 24, in its first composite overview of winter wheat condition of the season, indicated the nation’s crop was 47% good to excellent, 37% fair and 16% poor to very poor. The composite rating was nearly identical with that initial rating of the 2010 winter wheat crop made a year earlier. This year’s rating reflected the condition of a crop only 56% emerged as of Oct. 23 compared with an emergence of 63% around the same date last year. Drought slowed both planting and crop growth across Oklahoma and Texas. In contrast, excessive rain slowed planting and wheat emergence in Ohio.

Recent rain has loosened but not broken drought’s grip on the southern Plains. Oklahoma farmers picked up the pace of planting when the rain increased topsoil moisture. Winter wheat planting in the state was 82% completed by Oct. 23 compared with 63% a week earlier and equal to the five-year average planting pace. But wheat emergence in the state at 50% lagged normal progress for the date by 14 percentage points. The U.S.D.A. rated the Oklahoma crop’s condition as 36% good to excellent, 43% fair and 21% poor to very poor, ratings that actually were a bit better than the initial ratings for the 2010 crop at 31% good to excellent, 51% fair and 18% poor to very poor. Much more precipitation was urgently needed in Oklahoma as subsoil moisture remained scarce at 94% short to very short compared with 68% short to very short a year earlier.

Much of Texas also recently saw rain, but most of the state remained in severe to exceptional drought. Wheat planting was only 63% completed by Oct. 23 compared with 78% as the average for the date, and wheat emergence was only 26% compared with 55% as the average for the date. The crop’s condition was rated 25% good, 25% fair and 50% poor to very poor, which compared with 29% good to excellent, 42% fair and 29% poor to very poor a year earlier.

The Kansas wheat crop was 92% planted by Oct. 23 compared with 86% as the average for the date, and wheat emergence was 70% compared with 65% as the average. Wheat condition in the state was rated 43% good to excellent, 45% fair and 12% poor to very poor, which was similar to ratings of 42% good to excellent, 43% fair and 15% poor to very poor issued for the 2010 crop a year earlier. Dry conditions across much of southern Kansas pulled down the state’s average wheat ratings.

Wheat condition ratings in the remaining major hard winter wheat states were equal to or improved from a year ago except in Montana. Rated good to excellent on Oct. 23 was 45% in Colorado (31% last year), 82% in Nebraska (40%), 68% in South Dakota (68%) and 41% in Montana (78%). The latter state was much drier than a year ago. Montana topsoil moisture was 41% adequate to surplus compared with 80% a year ago and 68% as the recent five-year average. The state’s subsoil moisture was 49% adequate to surplus compared with 80% a year earlier and 48% as the five-year average.

Crop progress across the key soft red winter wheat areas of the Central states was well behind that of the hard winter wheat areas, which was typical for the date. Wheat emergence by Oct. 23 was 31% in Missouri (27% as the five-year average for the date), 40% in Illinois (39%), 34% in Indiana (36%), 7% in Ohio (48%) and 48% in Michigan (49%). Wheat rated good to excellent was 34% in Missouri (41% a year earlier), 63% in Illinois (50%), 57% in Indiana (23%), 54% in Ohio (67%) and 73% in Michigan (80%). Missouri’s poor crop rating was attributed to dryness, especially across the northern part of the state.