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WMR-Lower Winter Wheat Plantings

By: Jim Peterson
Posted: Feb 06 2020

Wheat producers planted less acres to winter wheat in the fall of 2019, continuing a multi-year trend.  According to the USDA survey, released on January 10, planted acres were estimated at 30.8 million, down 1%, or 360,000 from 2018.  It is the second lowest on record going back to the early 1900’s.  Poor price levels, and less than ideal planting conditions drove the lower acres.

Analysts were expecting a larger decline, with some expecting close to 1 million acres less, but stronger than anticipated plantings were shown across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.  Texas acres actually increased by nearly 10%, whereas Kansas and Oklahoma held steady with 2018 levels.  States with the sharpest declines included Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri, where acres fell from 20 to 25 percent.  Delayed harvest seasons and overly wet soils drove the lower acres in those states.

Much of the southern plains hard red winter wheat region will need a very good early spring growing season to compensate for less than ideal planting conditions and emergence last fall.  The overly dry areas of the region have shrunk over the winter months, but many areas still face dry soil conditions.

As the accompanying chart illustrates, spring wheat acres in the U.S. have been a bit more stable over the past ten years.  Most analysts expect 2020 plantings to hold fairly steady with last year, as potential gains in South Dakota and Montana for spring wheat, due to less winter wheat plantings, will offset declines across Minnesota and North Dakota.  The recent fall off in spring wheat prices across the region, and prospects of challenging early season planting conditions, due to a wet soil profile, are two factors which may hamper spring wheat acres in 2020.

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