KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — The U.S. winter wheat harvest, slow to begin because of an unusually cool spring following the worst drought in decades, began to make headway during the weekend of May 25 across the southern Plains, the Delta states and the deep South.

Indications were the hard red winter wheat harvest during the weekend expanded into southwestern Oklahoma with combining reported around the town of El Dorado. Last year following Memorial Day, the Oklahoma crop was already 41% harvested, but this was an astoundingly early and strong start to the harvest season. The 2007-11 Oklahoma harvest progress for the date was 3%.

The Texas harvest was 12% completed by May 26 compared with 2% a week earlier, 25% last year after Memorial Day and 12% as the recent five-year average for the date, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) weekly Crop Progress report issued May 28. The USDA Texas field office commented, “The small grain harvest was under way in the Trans-Pecos, South Central Texas, and the Upper Coast. Producers in the Blacklands and North East Texas commented that wheat was in good condition after recent rains. Some producers in the Plains continued to cut wheat fields for hay due to previous damage.”

The Fort Worth Grain Exchange took samples from 39 rail cars received over Memorial Day weekend and said the samples averaged 61.4 pounds per bushel in test weight with a range of 57.5 pounds to 63.8 pounds, and 13.3% in protein with a range of 11.4% to 15.1%. Moisture in the samples averaged 11.8% with a range of 9.1% to 14.6%, and dockage averaged 0.4% with a range of 0.2% to 0.8%. To date this harvest season, the exchange has taken samples from 64 rail cars, and these samples averaged 61.1 pounds per bushel in test weight, 13.4% in protein, 11.4% in moisture and 0.4% in dockage.

A Texas wheat merchant expressed doubt that harvested area in Texas will be as large as the 2 million acres forecast by the USDA.

Harvesting across the key state of Kansas was still a couple of weeks off.

The soft red winter wheat harvest was under way in the South and Delta states. Louisiana wheat was 6% harvested by May 26 compared with 89% a year ago and 56% as the five-year average for the date. Harvesting was 4% completed in Alabama compared with 27% a year ago and 11% as the average, and combining was 19% completed in Georgia compared with 64% a year ago and 28% as the average.