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“Point Of No Return” For U.S. Hard Winter Wheat

Prolonged drought conditions through Texas, Oklahoma and southern areas of Kansas, the top U.S. wheat-growing state, have left wheat industry experts fearing there is little hope for much of the new wheat crop due to be harvested this summer.

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week said fully 38 per cent of the entire nation’s winter wheat crop is considered in poor to very poor condition. Hard red winter wheat is the largest class of U.S. wheat and a key bread-making wheat. A year ago only six per cent of the crop was rated poor to very poor.

Oklahoma State University plant pathologist Bob Hunger said there is still a chance that rains – if they come soon – could help revive some withering fields. But many fields are already beyond recovery, he said.

“It has hit the point of no return for southern Oklahoma,” Hunger said.

Projections for Oklahoma wheat production continue to decline and now were generally around 70 million bushels for the state, roughly half of a normal harvest, he said.

“It is a pretty grim picture,” said Hunger.

Wheat experts in top producer Kansas are also pessimistic.

“It looks pretty tough,” said Kansas State University agronomist Jim Shroyer. “A couple more weeks and it is going to be too late for most of that wheat in the southwest,” he said.

Central and some northern areas of Kansas are showing better production potential though it is still hard to gauge the potential, Shroyer said.

In Texas, conditions are “bad and getting worse,” according to Texas A&M extension economist Mark Welch.

On an average year, Texas farmers will produce 100 million bushels of wheat, but this year it looks like it’s going to be a third of that, Welch said.

There is a little hope that several large acreage areas of drought-stricken wheat in the U.S. Plains will get any rain relief, according to Donald Kenney, senior ag meteorologist for Cropcast, a division of MDA Information Systems.

“East-central Kansas, central Oklahoma and north-central Texas will see some rains beginning tomorrow and lasting through Sunday,” Kenney said. “However, western Oklahoma, northwestern Texas, southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado will likely continue to get shortchanged.”

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