U.S. winter wheat harvest expands amid protein concerns

by Jay Sjerven
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Millers and bakers were hopeful average protein will rise as the harvest progresses. 
 
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — The winter wheat harvest expanded during the Memorial Day weekend, but progress was slowed in many areas by rain. The market observed the hard red winter wheat harvest with particular interest. Reports from Texas and Oklahoma harvest areas continued to be favorable with regard to test weights, but average protein in the wheat harvested to date was low. Millers and bakers were hopeful average protein will rise as the harvest progresses. The hard red winter wheat crop harvested in 2016 averaged only 11.2% in protein compared with 12.3% for the 2015 crop, 13.3% for the 2014 crop and 13.4% for the 2013 crop, according to U.S. Wheat Associates.

The Texas winter wheat harvest was 22% completed by May 28 compared with 20% a week earlier and 15% as the recent five-year average for the date. The USDA’s Southern Plains Regional Field Office, headquartered in Austin, Texas, U.S., commented, “Hail during the previous week damaged wheat fields in the Cross Timbers and the Northern Low Plains, while storms and high winds damaged fields in the Blacklands. Harvest kicked off in a few areas of the High Plains but was slowed by wet conditions in other areas of the state. Farmers in the Blacklands were concerned with the difficulties that the wet weather might cause during harvest.”

Staff at the Fort Worth Grain Exchange noted samples of wheat harvested near Abilene, Texas, U.S., had protein in the low- to-mid-10% range. Exchange staff also sampled wheat harvested near San Angelo during the weekend, and the average protein of those wheat samples was below 11%.

The USDA indicated the Oklahoma wheat harvest was 3% completed by May 28 compared with 1% a week earlier and 10% as the average for the date.

The Oklahoma Wheat Commission in a harvest update issued May 30 indicated there was good harvest progress during the Memorial Day weekend (including progress on May 29, which was not included in the USDA progress estimate) with the significant loss in wheat acres from a year ago and weather both factors for an accelerating pace. The Wheat Commission said Oklahoma wheat yields mostly fell in a range of 20 to 40 bushels per acre.

The commission commented, “Yields in parts of southwest Oklahoma were lowered by heavy rains and hail that passed through the state more than a week ago.” The commission added that southwestern Oklahoma elevator managers said they expect to take in 40% to 50% fewer bushels this year than in most recent years because of the number of wheat acres lost to cotton.

The commission said the harvest in central Oklahoma was progressing amid indications of “decent” yields and test weights.

“Many elevator managers have stated we have a decent quality crop overall, if we can just get to it before we receive more rainfall,” the commission observed. “The seven-day forecast of more predicted rains have many producers concerned about what lies ahead for this harvest season all across the state.”

The commission said protein across Texas and up into central Oklahoma was being reported in the 10.5% to 11% range.

The Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association indicated the wheat harvest by May 31 had extended as far north as Enid, Oklahoma, U.S. The association confirmed southwest Oklahoma yields were viewed as disappointing, but yields in central and northern Oklahoma were average with some farmers who applied fertilizer and fungicide seeing yields above average, up to 50 bushels per acre.

Average test weight was good as it has been since the harvest began, but average protein remained low, the association said.

The soft red winter wheat harvest continued to expand across the South and Delta states. In the Delta, the Louisiana winter wheat harvest was 40% completed by May 28 compared with 16% a week earlier and 35% as the recent five-year average for the date. The Arkansas harvest was 13% completed compared with 2% a week earlier 15% as the average. And the Mississippi wheat harvest was 9% completed compared with 4% a week earlier and 14% as the average.

In the South, the Alabama harvest was 18% completed by May 28 compared with 6% a week earlier and 17% as the five-year average for the date. The Georgia harvest was 38% completed compared with 24% a week earlier and 36% as the average. And the South Carolina harvest was 5% completed compared with 1% a week earlier and 10% as the average. 
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