Rain across the Southwest in November and December greatly improved prospects for the 2012 hard red winter wheat crop as illustrated in the contraction in the area afflicted by severe drought. In early October, nearly all of Texas, all of Oklahoma except the state’s northeastern corner and most of southern Kansas were in the grips of an “exceptional” drought (the worst rating), but by Dec. 20, the area so afflicted was much smaller, and weather forecasts suggested the drought may continue to retreat into the spring.

Drew Lerner of World Weather, Inc., in a commentary in the Dec. 20 edition of SoslandMarketFocus (formerly MarketFax), said, “Weather patterns in the United States continue to be better than expected due to a weak La Nina event that is being overshadowed by a dominating weather pattern that is responsible for frequent rain in the southern Plains, Delta and Midwest as well as the drier biases in the north central and northwestern states. A positive arctic oscillation is also playing out to contribute to the warmer-than-usual biases in many areas. These conditions and trends will continue for a while longer, and that will assure that U.S. hard red wheat comes into spring with better-than-expected production potential.”

Veteran crop observers noted much more precipitation was needed to replenish subsoil moisture drained from soil during the drought, but the wet weather pattern may very well continue.
Mr. Lerner noted northeastern Colorado and western Nebraska were the only areas in the hard winter wheat belt that were noticeably drier than usual in the most recent 30 days.
As last week drew to a close, snow covered two-thirds of Kansas, all but the northeastern corner of Colorado, the entire Oklahoma panhandle, and the northern part of the Texas panhandle. The snow cover was expected to protect the crop from forecast colder air.

Winter weather may prove to be more problematic for the soft red winter wheat areas. The Central states were very wet in November and December. In fact, rain has been frequent since early October. Mr. Lerner said, “The wetter biased conditions have induced brief periods of flooding, and there is some concern that a more serious flood might occur in the late winter and spring if there is not sufficient drying time so that rivers and streams can begin receding.”