Despite occasional December precipitation across the Nation's mid-section, hard red winter wheat conditions remained mostly steady or declined due to poor crop establishment and acute soil moisture shortages. In addition, drought intensified across southern portions of the Plains, especially from southern Texas into eastern Kansas. By December 30, the portion of the Plains' wheat rated in very poor to poor condition included 61 percent in Oklahoma, 49 percent in Nebraska, and 31 percent in Kansas. However, enough snow fell across the northern and central Plains to provide some degree of insulation from temperatures that locally and periodically fell to -10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
In contrast, significant precipitation fell in much of the soft red winter wheat belt, particularly across the Ohio Valley. As a result, most of the wheat continued to thrive across the Mid-South and lower Midwest. By month's end, 70 percent of the Illinois wheat crop was rated good to excellent. In both the Ohio Valley and the upper Midwest, enough of December's precipitation fell in the frozen form to establish a substantial snow cover.
Meanwhile, widespread precipitation also fell in much of the East, although rain was spotty across Florida. Some of the heaviest precipitation, relative to normal, fell across the Northeast and from the central Gulf Coast into the southern Appalachians.
Elsewhere, much of the West experienced unsettled weather during December. Precipitation was especially heavy from northern California into the Intermountain West. For example, the average water content of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snow pack increased by 10 inches during the month, reaching 14 inches (137 percent of normal) by the end of December.
The Nation's winter agricultural regions escaped significant freezes during December, although there were several chilly mornings - particularly from December 19-21 - in California and the Desert Southwest. Florida's coldest morning, for the most part, occurred on December 23. Overall, December temperatures were highly variable in the West but mostly above normal across the eastern half of the Nation. Western temperatures were influenced by snow cover, mainly in parts of the Intermountain region.
See all of the data, coverage and analysis of the WASDE, Crop Production, Grain Stocks and Winter Wheat Seedings reports.