U.S. winter wheat harvest progressing at average pace

by Jay Sjerven
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US winter wheat harvest
USDA in its weekly Crop Progress report indicated the nation’s winter wheat harvest was 41% completed by June 25.
 
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — The pace of the winter wheat harvest has accelerated albeit with some rain interruptions in the key hard red winter wheat state of Kansas. Meanwhile, the condition of the spring wheat crop across the northern Plains continued to decline despite recent rainfall across eastern sections of the hard red spring wheat belt. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its weekly Crop Progress report indicated the nation’s winter wheat harvest was 41% completed by June 25 compared with 28% a week earlier and 39% as the recent five-year average for the date.

The hard red winter wheat harvest across Oklahoma and Texas was winding down. The Oklahoma harvest was 90% completed versus 79% as the average for the date, and the Texas harvest was 87% completed compared with 73% as the average. In both states, combining made rapid progress in large part because there were fewer acres to harvest. Oklahoma farmers were expected to harvest 2.7 million acres this season, 23% fewer acres than the 3.5 million acres harvested in 2016. Texas farmers were expected to harvest 2.3 million acres, 18% fewer than the 2.8 million acres combined last year. In the case of Oklahoma, the harvested area was estimated to be the smallest since 2.62 million acres in 1914.

It should be noted the USDA will update its harvested area forecasts for winter wheat in its annual Acreage report, which will be issued June 30.

The Kansas harvest made rapid progress in the week ended June 25. Combining by that date was 48% completed compared with 22% a week earlier and 47% as the five-year average. Progress was slowed last week by intermittent rain showers. As in Oklahoma and Texas, fewer wheat acres should speed combining across northern and western sections of the state. The USDA forecast Kansas producers will harvest 6.9 million acres of wheat, 16% fewer than the 8.2 million acres harvested in 2016.

Combining was just under way in Colorado and Nebraska with the harvest 1% completed in both states by June 25 compared with 12% and 8%, respectively, as the recent five-year averages for the date.

From the beginning of the hard red winter wheat harvest in southern Texas, the 2017 crop has exhibited strong test weight, above 60 lbs. per bushel, but low average protein.

In its harvest summary issued June 23, Plains Grains, Inc., which provides analyses utilized and distributed by U.S. Wheat Associates, indicated on the basis of 133 of 530 intended samples, 2017 hard red winter wheat was averaging 60.9 lbs per bushel in test weight compared with 60.7 lbs per bushel as the average for the 2016 crop. The average protein was running 11.1% compared with 11.2% as the 2016 crop average. By way of comparison, the 2015 crop averaged 12.3% in protein, and the 2014 crop averaged 13.3%.

The Plains Grains samples were taken from Oklahoma, Texas and the southernmost tier of central Kansas.

Wheat buyers and sellers hoped protein will begin to rise as combining expands to the north and west in Kansas and into Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana. And there have been rail cars of new crop Kansas wheat loaded with middle-protein supply. But reports of pockets of middle-protein wheat were far fewer to date than those pointing to another low-protein Kansas crop. In 2016, the crop average protein in Kansas at 11.7% was higher than the national average, but low nonetheless.

The Kansas Wheat Commission has provided daily harvest updates. The update issued June 26 was typical in that growers interviewed indicated yields have been mostly good, test weights good or even excellent but average protein low, below 11% in this update.

In some recent years, higher protein in the later harvest helped pull up the national average. South Dakota often is a key state in this regard. But this year, the South Dakota hard red winter wheat crop was suffering from drought, which was reflected in the USDA’s latest crop condition rating for the state. The USDA rated 56% of the South Dakota crop in poor to very poor condition. Only 10% of the crop was rated in good condition.

Dryness may stress wheat and elevate protein, but this often takes place at expense of yields, and the USDA already forecast South Dakota spring wheat production this year at 39 million bushels, down 39% from 63.8 million bushels in 2016.

Should hard red winter wheat producers harvest a second consecutive low-protein crop, the millers and bakers requiring higher levels of protein in flour will have to rely heavily on the hard red spring wheat crop of the northern Plains, and that crop’s condition has been declining as drought gripped much of the region.

With 36% of the crop in the six key producing states headed by June 25, the USDA rated spring wheat condition at 40% good to excellent, 32% fair and 28% poor to very poor, a minor decline from a week earlier. On the same date last year, the spring wheat crop was rated 72% good to excellent. The June 25 spring wheat crop condition rating was the lowest for the date in records extending back to 1994.

The crop in the key state of North Dakota was rated 39% good to excellent, 34% fair and 27% poor to very poor. South Dakota spring wheat was rated 12% good to excellent, 26% fair and 62% poor to very poor.

The soft red winter wheat harvest was progressing ahead of the average pace in most key states. The USDA indicated combining by June 25 was 76% completed in Missouri (55% as the five-year average for the date), 78% in Illinois (47%), 35% in Indiana (30%), 10% in Ohio (7%) and 83% in North Carolina (76%). The Michigan harvest was yet to begin.

The harvest across the Delta states and the South was nearly completed, and the combining in the mid-Atlantic states was under way.

In its harvest issued June 23, U.S. Wheat Associates indicated based on 135 of 500 intended samples, 2017 soft red winter wheat was averaging 58.8 lbs per bushel compared with 58.6 lbs as the average for the 2016 crop.

Falling number was averaging 313 seconds versus 330 seconds in 2016. U.S. Wheat noted, “There have been some very isolated falling number values less than 250, but most results have exceeded 300.”

The samples were from southern areas. U.S. Wheat has yet to report grade factors for the samples. 

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