Plains’ wheat crop is in tough shape

From South Dakota to Texas, the U.S. hard red winter wheat crop is in bad shape.

“The crop is really in dire straits,” says USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey. “It got off to a rough start in South Dakota and Nebraska.  States south of there, especially from Kansas through Texas, it has turned dry—virtually no rain since the first of October in many of the central and southern Plains’ locations.”

The “poor to very poor” ratings in the latest crop progress report tell the story—South Dakota at 60 percent, Nebraska 40, Kansas 24 and Oklahoma at 44 percent poor to very poor.  In fact, those condition ratings are at some of their lowest levels since USDA starting tracking those statistics in 1986.

And Rippey says the prospects for improvement are not very bright.

“For the South Dakota to Texas portion of the belt, there’s really no prospect for any appreciable precipitation during the next two weeks, outside of a few sprinkles or snow flurries from time to time,” he says. “So I don’t think we’ll see any appreciable drought relief as we head on through the remainder of November and into December.

“We need a pattern change—we need a couple of big storms—we need some snowfall to bring back this winter wheat crop from the brink of disaster.”

But on the positive side, Rippey says, “we’re doing reasonably well in the soft red winter wheat belt, which stretches through the mid-South into the Eastern Corn Belt—and we’re doing reasonably well in the white winter wheat belt of the Northwest.”

But because half of the winter wheat comes from the Plains and hard red winter wheat belt, Rippey says, the overall picture is rather bleak.

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