KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — An unusually strong wintry storm and frigid temperatures brought the fall crop harvest and winter wheat planting to a halt across much of the nation’s corn and winter wheat belts last week. At midweek last week, snow covered Nebraska, Kansas and northeastern Colorado in the hard red winter wheat belt. Snow cover also was extensive in the Central states, the key region for soft red winter wheat, the Northeast and across North Dakota.     

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its final weekly Crop Progress report of 2018, released on Nov. 26, indicated winter wheat planting in the 18 principal producing states was 95% completed by Nov. 25 compared with 99% as the five-year average for the date. The Kansas hard red winter wheat crop was 96% planted compared with 100% as the average for the date. The Missouri soft red winter wheat crop was 89% planted versus 95% as the average.

The ability of producers to plant the remaining intended winter wheat acres will depend on the weather, but the window for successful seeding was drawing to a close. The yield potential of Kansas winter wheat planted in December typically is only 59% of that for wheat planted by Oct. 1, according to a Kansas State University study.

Aaron Harries, vice-president, research and operations, Kansas Wheat Commission, said he didn’t expect Kansas growers to seed the remaining intended acres, pointing out that even after the current snow cover recedes, weather forecasts suggested conditions in coming weeks will remain mostly wet and cold.

The same snow cover and forecast for continued wet and cold weather stymied Kansas farmers in efforts to complete their fall crop harvests. The Kansas corn harvest was 94% completed by Nov. 25 versus 99% as the five-year average for the date, its soybean harvest was 92% completed versus 97% as the average, and its sorghum harvest was 83% completed compared with 95% as the average. Corn may be harvested later, but the condition of soybeans remaining in the field may suffer from the unseasonably cold and wet weather. Mr. Harries said he knew of a Kansas farmer with 1,000 acres of sorghum yet to harvest who indicated the heavy snow caused lodging, making harvesting those acres problematic.

Winter wheat emergence in the 18 states was 86% by Nov. 25 compared with 92% as the average for the date. Wheat emergence was 87% in Kansas versus 96% as the average. Snow cover on balance should be beneficial to the crop, although some of the wheat was not well established before the storm and onslaught of frigid temperatures.   

The USDA indicated the corn harvest in the 18 principal producing states was 94% completed by Nov. 25 compared with 96% as the average for the date. The soybean harvest was 94% completed versus 98% as the average. And the sorghum harvest was 89% completed compared with 94% as the five-year average.