Winter Wheat Crop May Be At Risk Due To Excessive Rain

October 30, 2008 07:00 PM
Tanner Ehmke, AgWeb

Excessive rains across the Plains could be jeopardizing the health of the U.S. hard red winter wheat crop, analysts at weather research firm Planalytics say.

Based on the latest satellite imagery, biomass maps are showing a lower than normal level of vegetation on the Plains, according to Planalytics. Analysts argue that the excessive wetness seen in recent weeks is to blame.

Vegetation Index Greenness Map for Oct.14-27

Vegetation Index Greenness Map for Oct.14-27 indicating low biomass in the Plains.

While fall rains typically are beneficial for winter wheat crops as they help with establishment of the root system ahead of winter dormancy, Planalytics analysts argue that the saturated and frozen soils are causing root damage – putting this year's winter wheat crop off on poor footing.

"Much of the wheat acres are showing less Greenness compared to our 19 years of vegetation index maps,” Planalystics analysts stated in their latest FlashWeather newsletter released last week. "Why? For the same reason that a lot of corn has not been harvested... it's too wet!!!”

Rainfall totals across Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas – the heart of the hard red winter wheat belt - over the past 30-45 days have been excessive, the newsletter stated, with precipitation as high as four to six times historical averages.

Because of the overabundance of moisture on the Plains, wheat producers are struggling with planting delays or have been forced to replant.

"We planted some (wheat) on the 20th and 21st of October, and will have to replant all of that,” according to a Crop Comment from Sedgwick County, Kan.

Another farmer from Sumner County, Kan., reported annual precipitation at more than 52 inches – the wettest year in history – which has left half his winter wheat crop unplanted. And with soils in the area still saturated, more planting delays are expected.

Last week, USDA reported 84% of the U.S. winter wheat crop was planted, down from the 5-year average of 88%, with Kansas at 83% seeded, compared to its average of 92%. Meanwhile, 69% of the U.S. winter wheat crop had emerged, which was on par with the historical average.

Health of the crop last week showed an improvement over the previous year with the crop earning a 65% good-to-excellent rating, which is above last year's rating of 55% good-to-excellent when the Plains suffered severe dryness.

USDA's Crop Progress report for the week ended Nov. 2 is due out at 3 p.m. Central Standard Time today, and will be reported on AgWeb.

 You can e-mail Tanner Ehmke at

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