October 18, 2022


US winter wheat crop affected by drought in southern Plains



Wheat experts said the 2023 US winter wheat crop is already being affected by drought in the centre of the southern Plains, even as planting is about halfway complete, Reuters reported.


Despite historically high prices for this time of year, planting plans may be scaled back in the breadbasket of the US because of rising global demand and low world wheat supplies that are predicted to end the 2022–23 marketing year at a six-year low. Due to the disruption of grain exports from the Black Sea region brought on by the conflict in Ukraine, the shortage of supplies has worsened.


The drought poses a double threat to Kansas, the state that produces the most winter wheat, and Oklahoma: it discourages farmers from planting while posing a risk to crops that are already in the ground from growing properly.


Kent Winter, a farmer in Andale, Kansas, just outside of Wichita, said this was kind of a grim situation He said he has not sown any wheat this year by the usual mid-October deadline.


He will start "dusting in" the crop and praying for moisture if rain does not fall in the following 10 days. Final planting dates, which range from October 15 in northwest Kansas to November 15 in the southeast, are fast approaching.


Wheat shoots may not emerge from the ground if there is insufficient moisture. Even a delayed emergence would reduce the window for plants to establish a hardy root system and send out more tillers before winter, which would endanger yield potential.


Mark Hodges, an agronomist for Plains Grains Inc., an organisation with headquarters in Oklahoma that evaluates the quality of wheat, said it is extremely difficult to make up that number in the spring, if farmers don't have the tillers in the fall.


The July Kansas City wheat futures contract is currently trading around US$9.40 per bushel, the highest price ever for a new-crop July contract at this time of year, the height of the fall planting season. This price movement highlights concerns about a supply shortage.


The majority of wheat is grown as a winter crop rather than a spring crop in the US, one of the top five global exporters.


Although farmers in the Plains would like to benefit from high prices, the dry weather may make producers think twice before ordering supplies of expensive fertiliser and seeds.


As a result, Justin Gilpin, CEO of the Kansas Wheat Commission, anticipated that the 7.3 million acres of Kansas wheat that were seeded for 2022 would be planted for harvest in 2023.


Winter agreed. He said the drought is having a huge impact on plans, adding that with the price of wheat, a lot of operators were planning to at least match or even up their acres for this coming year.


Poor emergence might cost more in the long run. Wheat helps the Plains' topsoil become more stable and resist wind erosion.


Wheat is a renownedly resilient crop that can overcome challenges from unfavourable weather. However, through December, the southern Plains are expected to experience drought.


According to the most recent weekly U.S. Weather report, 27% of Kansas is experiencing "exceptional drought," the most severe category, and nearly the entire state is abnormally dry.


The La Nina weather phenomenon, which favours warm and dry conditions in the Plains, is a major cause of the drought. La Nina at the moment is in its third year.


-      Reuters

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