Winter wheat acreage dips to new low but eclipses expectations

by Jay Sjerven
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Winter wheat
Winter wheat plantings represent the smallest winter wheat seeded area since 1909.
 

WASHINGTON — Plantings of winter wheat for harvest in 2018 were estimated at 32,608,000 acres in data issued Jan. 12 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Plantings were modestly off from the year before and represent the smallest winter wheat seeded area since 1909.

While down from 2017 winter wheat plantings, the acreage estimate exceeded analysts’ forecasts averaging 31.4 million acres issued ahead of the NASS report.

Planting delays contributed to the depressed acreage totals. Seedings of 32,608,000 acres were down 88,000, or 0.3%, from 32,696,000 acres in 2017 but were considerably smaller than 36,152,000 acres in 2016. Plantings were down 25% from 43,230,000 acres in 2013, peak plantings in the current decade. Versus the all-time high of 57,771 acres in 1980, the 2018 area was down 44%.

Similarly narrow changes from 2017 were estimated for plantings of winter wheat by class. Hard winter wheat seeded acreage in 2018 was estimated at 23.1 million, down 2% from 2017.

“Planted acreage is down from last year across most of the growing region,” the U.S.D.A. said. “The largest declines in planted acreage are estimated in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Record low acreage was seeded in Nebraska and Utah.”

Soft red winter wheat planted area was estimated at 5.98 million acres, up 4% from 2017.

“Acreage increases are expected from last year in most of the soft red winter growing states, while decreases are expected in the Delta region, most northeastern states, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and   West Virginia. Record low acreage was seeded in Louisiana, New Jersey, and West Virginia.”

White winter wheat seeded area was forecast at 3.56 million acres, up 1% from 2017.

“Planting in the Pacific Northwest got off to a normal start, but progress was behind the five-year average pace in Washington throughout the planting season,” the U.S.D.A. said. “By Nov. 5, seeding was virtually complete in the region.”

In the hard winter states of the Southwest, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, 2018 crop winter wheat seedings were 20,080,000 acres, down 90,000 acres, or 0.4%, from 20,170,000 acres in 2017 and 22,220,000 in 2017. The Southwest accounted for 62% of winter wheat acreage in 2018, unchanged from 2017.

Winter wheat plantings in the Central states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio — were estimated at 2,610,000 acres, up 240,000 acres, or 10%, from 2,370,000 acres in 2017. The region accounted for 8% of plantings in 2018, up from 7% the year before.

Plantings in the 10 soft wheat states of the Southeast — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee — were 1,990,000 acres, up 5,000 acres from 1,985,000 acres the year before. Plantings in the Southeast equated to 6% of total winter wheat acreage in 2018, unchanged from 2017.

In the white wheat states of the Pacific Northwest — Idaho, Oregon and Washington — winter wheat plantings for 2018 harvest were forecast at 3,140,000 acres, up 20,000 acres from the year before and once again accounting for about 10% of the winter wheat planted area.

States with the largest year-to-year changes in winter wheat plantings, by acres, begin with Oklahoma, down 400,000 acres (9%), to 4,100,000 acres. By contrast, though, Texas winter wheat seedings were estimated up 300,000 acres (6%) from 2017, to 5 million acres. Montana winter wheat area was forecast at 1,550,000 acres in 2018, down 200,000 acres, or 11%, from 1,750,000 acres in 2017.

Kansas winter wheat acreage was forecast at 7,800,000 acres, up 200,000 acres, or 2%, from 7,600,000 acres in 2017.

Kansas was forecast to have the largest winter wheat planted acreage in 2018, accounting for 24% of total U.S. winter wheat plantings. Texas ranked second in plantings, followed by Oklahoma. Fourth largest winter wheat area from 2018 was Colorado, at 2,150,000 acres, down 100,000 acres, or 4%. Washington was the fifth largest winter wheat state by area with 2018 crop plantings estimated at 1,700,000 acres, unchanged from 2017.

Seedings of durum in Arizona and California for 2018 harvest tumbled to 74,000 acres, down 41% from 2017 and 51% from 2016.
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