As the last of the 2011 U.S. winter wheat crop was being harvested in Montana and the Pacific Northwest, seeding of the crop for harvest in 2012 was under way, but not to the extent growers would prefer because of the extreme drought across the southwestern part of the hard red winter wheat belt.
In the northern Plains, producers in South Dakota had seeded 6% of their winter wheat as of Sept. 4, slightly behind 10% as the 2006-10 average for the date. Nebraska plantings were 10% completed, slightly ahead of 7% as the average. And planting in Wyoming was 4% completed, behind 24% as the average. Washington winter wheat seeding at 16% completed was about average for the date. Weather conditions were near ideal for planting winter wheat (and for catch up of the lagging spring wheat and durum harvests) in the Upper Midwest last week.
But it’s a much different story across the southern Plains where wildfires burned out of control in Texas and Oklahoma. Daily high temperatures finally fell below 100 degrees over the Labor Day weekend for the first time in more than three months at many locations. Much of the area had little if any rainfall during that time, and a meteorologist told Kansas City Board of Trade members last week both states “will be dry until further notice.” The region got nothing in the form of meaningful moisture from two tropical storms this summer and little if any was expected from Nate, currently in the Gulf. Topsoil moisture in Oklahoma was 81% very short and 1% adequate and subsoil moisture was 87% very short with none adequate.
No wheat had been planted as of Sept. 4 in Texas and Oklahoma, U.S.D.A. field offices said. Typically, about 5% of the crop is planted in Texas by that date. One grain merchandiser in Texas said growers would have to “dust in” the crop, meaning plant in dry soil and hope for rain for the seed to germinate. Whether there would be enough rain to keep plants alive after germination remained in question.
In 2010, Texas was the second-largest winter wheat producing state with Oklahoma third. In 2011, U.S.D.A. data indicated Oklahoma fell to fifth place and Texas to tenth, due to dry conditions that have since grown into extreme drought and now inhibit planting of the 2012 crop.