What a difference a year can make. At this time last year, USDA estimated U.S. winter wheat crop conditions were at their worst in nearly three decades. Now, two recent reports show the U.S. winter wheat crop is in much better shape headed into the winter season.
The November 2013 Crop Progress report, released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) on Nov. 25, shows winter wheat emergence on pace with the five-year average. Overall, 93 percent of the winter wheat crop had emerged, up from last year (88 percent) and the five-year average (89 percent).
NASS also rated current winter wheat crop conditions as much improved from last year’s crop at the same time. Overall, 62 percent of the winter wheat crop was rated good to excellent, compared to just 33 percent last year.
The more telling aspect of U.S. winter wheat growing conditions, however, is topsoil and subsoil moisture. Just compare the U.S. Drought Monitor, published Dec. 5, with the same time last year, and there is no doubt that moisture conditions have improved significantly for much of the U.S. winter wheat belt.
NASS echoes this assessment in the Crop Progress Report. In Kansas, the largest hard red winter (HRW) producing state, NASS rated 70 percent of the state’s topsoil moisture at adequate or surplus levels. That sharply contrasts with last year when 75 percent of topsoil moisture was rated very short or short. NASS reported a similar trend with subsoil moisture, with 57 percent rated as adequate or surplus this year compared to last year when 87 percent was rated very short to short.
Oklahoma’s wheat crop also shows improvement in topsoil and subsoil moisture. Subsoil moisture is now rated at 50 percent adequate or above. At the end of November last year, just 3 percent of Oklahoma’s subsoil moisture was rated adequate, compared to 98 percent very short to short.
Despite these improvements, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows areas in western Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and eastern Colorado are still under long-term drought impact (greater than six months).
Persisting drought conditions are particularly evident in Colorado. While Colorado’s topsoil moisture conditions have improved significantly from last year at the same time (56 percent adequate or above compared to 15 percent last year), subsoil conditions remain dry. Two thirds of the state’s subsoil moisture was rated as short on moisture (67 very short to short), although it is still improved from the 94 percent very short to short last year at the same time.
Overall, winter wheat harvest is six months away. Only time will tell whether Mother Nature will provide the moisture this crop will need to carry it to a bountiful harvest. But, for now, the 2014 winter wheat crop is off to a good start.
(Source – http://www.farms.com/news/winter-wheat-crop-and-moisture-back-on-track-70380.aspx)