US Winter Wheat Latest

The US winter wheat crop is in a strange situation where promising crops seem to be getting better whilst poorer crops getting worse.

The USDA last night reported 43% of the crop rated good/excellent, that's a one point increase from last week. The percentage of the crop rated poor/very poor however also increased, up two points to 27%.

Wheat in the top US producing state of Kansas appears to be improving in potential, whilst in Oklahoma and Texas things are going from bad to worse.

The key factor in all of this seems to be the stage of development that the wheat crop was at when it was hit by a big freeze a fortnight ago. Crops in the more southerly states of Oklahoma and Texas were more mature and therefore more critically affected by temperatures well below zero for several hours.

"Irreversible damage occurs in the boot stage, when the grain head emerges from the leaf sheath to be pollinated, but Kansas wheat was just starting to joint," says Gail Martell of StormX.

"Oklahoma wheat is expected to have severe yield reductions in the western and southwestern crop districts, because the freeze caught wheat in the reproductive stage. The Oklahoma wheat rating deteriorated for the second week in a row, reflecting devastating losses, and is now 30% very poor, 30% poor, 28% fair and 12% good," she adds.

In Texas things are even more bleak for wheat, with 74% of the crop now rated poor/very poor, up seven points from last week.

Meanwhile spring wheat planting remains well behind schedule with just 6% of the crop in the ground compared to 21% normally, said the USDA. The recent heavy flooding in North Dakota means that that state has yet to plant any wheat at all. Recent analysts estimates point to up to 1 million acres of land intended for spring wheat in ND may not get planted.

Corn planting meanwhile is 5% complete, well behind the five year average of 14%, but things are expected to catch up rapidly for corn over the next couple of weeks with warmer temperatures on the way for much of the corn belt.