Widespread rainfall in northwestern Kansas eased arid conditions in the No. 1 winter wheat state as this year’s crop nears maturity, said the weekly Drought Monitor. Still, some 69 percent of Kansas remains in drought.
Searing drought in the central and southern Plains will result in the smallest winter wheat crop since 2002 and the second smallest in 47 years, said the USDA in its first estimate of the summer harvest.
Kansas will reap its smallest winter wheat crop since 1989 and neighboring Oklahoma will harvest half of its usual total because of a months-long drought in the Plains, crop scouts said on Thursday after touring the winter wheat belt.
When the winter wheat crop breaks dormancy over the next few weeks, it will face arid conditions in the central and southern Plains due to an extraordinarily dry winter, said an agricultural meteorologist.
Snowpack in parts of the Rocky Mountains is at record lows because of warmer than usual weather, “raising concerns about water supplies and economic damage,” says Inside Climate News.
Wheat growers sowed 31.2 million acres of winter wheat for harvest this spring, the lowest figure since 1909 for the dominant type of U.S. wheat, according to a survey of farmers by Farm Futures. It would be a declne of 4.5 percent from last year and reflect poor profit potential of the wheat compared to other crops.
U.S. wheat growers already were on track for what was expected to be one of the smallest crops in years, and bitter cold this week is making the USDA projection look more likely.
A simulation by Texas A&M scientists indicates that winter wheat is a feasible cover crop for cotton growers in the arid Plains, says one of the researchers.
Kansas farmers sharply scaled back winter wheat sowings because of low market prices, assuring a smaller crop this year than last. Now disease, snowfall, and freeze damage this spring are dragging prospects down even further.