Market News & Headlines >> HRW Wheat Struggling, but Rain Forecast

Monday afternoon’s weekly crop update from USDA confirmed that U.S. winter wheat conditions continued to deteriorate last week and remained slightly below a year earlier, but forecasts call for the dry southern Plains to see needed moisture next week.

USDA pegged nationwide winter wheat conditions at 34% good/excellent as of Sunday, down from 35% a week earlier and 36% a year earlier, while rating 32% of the crop poor/very poor, up from 29% a week earlier and 31% a year earlier.

The crop in key southern Plains producing states continues to suffer from moisture stress amid drought conditions there. In the top producing state of Kansas, 26% of the crop was rated good/excellent, down from 29% a week earlier, while the portion rated poor/very poor rose 3 percentage points to 30%. Kansas topsoil moisture supplies were rated 69% short/very short, while subsoil moisture supplies were 70% short/ very short.

In neighboring Oklahoma, only 14% of the crop was rated good, with none in the excellent category, while poor/very poor rating rose 6 points to 54%. Oklahoma topsoil moisture was 76% short/very short, with subsoil moisture 80% short/very short.

And in Texas 13% of the crop was rated good/excellent, unchanged from a week earlier, with 63% rated poor/very poor.

HRW wheat crop ratings are likely to decline further next week after the crop in the southern and central Plains was hit with a late freeze Monday and Tuesday mornings, although lasting damage should not have been widespread, according to forecaster World Weather Inc. The firm said areas of West Texas appear most likely to have suffered permanent damage.

Lagging wheat development may have limited freeze damage. An estimated 16% of the Texas crop was already in the vulnerable heading stage as of Sunday, but that was behind the five-year average of 28%. In Oklahoma, 80% of the crop was jointing versus an average of 86%, while in Kansas, only 31% was jointing, lagging an average of 47%.

Near-term weather forecasts call for beneficial rains in central Oklahoma with lighter amounts in the western parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where conditions are driest. The National Weather Service 6- to 10-day outlook favors above-normal rainfall across most of the HRW wheat belt April 22-26. Whether the rains actually show up is another matter. Other recent rainfall opportunities for the dry areas have not panned out.