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Winter wheat crop conditions across the central and southern Plains were much better than last year for the date.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its March 13 Wheat Outlook noted in the central Plains, the Nebraska winter wheat crop at the end of February was rated 65% good to excellent and only 6% poor to very poor. At the end of February a year ago, the state’s crop was rated 40% good to excellent and 13% poor to very poor. In Kansas as of March 5, 50% of the winter wheat crop was rated good to excellent and 12% poor to very poor. Last year on that date, 25% of the Kansas crop was rated good to excellent and 40% was poor to very poor.

Oklahoma’s winter wheat crop as of March 5 was rated 62% good to excellent and 9% poor to very poor compared with 22% good to excellent and 41% poor to very poor a year earlier. The Texas wheat crop was rated 33% good to excellent and 39% poor to very poor compared with 18% good to excellent and 56% poor to very poor in early March 2011.

Recent waves of rain across the southern Plains were reducing the area afflicted by severe drought, and weather forecasts held out the promise of additional rain during the next several weeks. Crop progress was advancing ahead of the normal pace across the hard winter states, but no freeze threat was forecast. (see Drew Lerner’s weather forecast on Page 40).

The U.S.D.A. indicated the soft red winter states that report monthly conditions said their winter wheat was in substantially better shape than a year ago. In Illinois at the end of February, 81% of the soft red winter wheat crop was in good to excellent condition and only 2% poor to very poor. Last February, 36% of the state’s crop was good to excellent and 18% was poor to very poor. In North Carolina, 80% of the crop was reported as good to excellent and 1% was poor to very poor. Last year at the same time, 59% of the state’s crop was rated good to excellent and 8% was rated poor to very poor.

Per capita flour use the lowest since 1989

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated 2011 per capita consumption of all-wheat flour at 132.5 lbs, down 2.3 lbs from the 2010 estimate and down 5.8 lbs from 2007, the recent peak.

“Historically, per capita flour use has not been this low since the 1989 level of 128.8 lbs,” the U.S.D.A. said in its March 13 Wheat Outlook. “The 2011 per capita food use is down 13.8 lbs from the 2000 level, when flour use started dropping sharply, apparently due to increased consumer interest in low-carbohydrate diets.”