Winter wheat crop condition ratings drop sharply

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — Crop condition ratings for U.S. winter wheat dropped sharply in Monday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture weekly Crop Progress report, reflecting effects of a widespread freeze across hard and soft winter wheat growing areas over the Easter weekend.

Rated good to excellent as of April 15 was 55% of the winter wheat crop in the 18 major growing states, the U.S.D.A. said. That rating compares with 64% the previous week and 71% two weeks earlier. Twenty eight per cent of the crop was rated fair, compared with 26% as of April 8 and 23% on April 1, when the first composite rating was released. Rated poor to very poor was 17% of the crop as of April 15, compared with 10% the previous week and 6% two weeks prior.

Kansas, the nation’s largest wheat producing state, had the most significant decline in ratings of all the hard winter wheat growing states. Rated good to excellent as of April 15 was 36% of the Kansas crop, down from 55% the previous week and 77% two weeks earlier.

"Wheat freeze damage reports indicate 31% of the wheat has not been damaged (54% a week earlier), 25% received light damage (15%), 26% received moderate damage (15%), and 18% received severe damage (16%)," the Kansas Agricultural Statistics office said.

Crop condition ratings dropped significantly in several major soft winter wheat growing states. As of April 15, rated good to excellent in Missouri was 10% of the crop (46% a week earlier and 65% two weeks prior), Illinois 28% (56% and 63%), Indiana 39% (51% and 58%), and Arkansas 28% (54% and 70%).

"Winter wheat condition declined markedly to 20% very poor, 37% poor, 33% fair, 10% good and 0% excellent, a decrease of 36 points in the good to excellent categories from last week," the Missouri Field Office of the U.S.D.A. said. "A few reporters have already seen farmers plowing up fields to go into another crop, but most are still waiting for a clearer picture of the damage."

Soft winter wheat in Kentucky and Tennessee also were severely damaged, weekly crop reports indicated. Rated good to excellent as of April 15 was 16% of the crop in Kentucky (64% a week earlier) and 6% in Tennessee (82%).

"Over two-thirds of the wheat and over half of the corn crop suffered severe damage," the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said.

Nearly all of the state crop reports indicated it was still too soon to fully determine the extent of freeze damage to wheat and other crops.

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