Earlier this month, the USDA in its first estimate of 2020 U.S. winter wheat seedings pegged the planted area at 30.8 million acres, which apparently is the lowest seeded area for this type of wheat since 29.196 million acres was planted in 1909.
Even though the drop in acreage has been accompanied by rising yields with the 2019 U.S. winter wheat yield the second highest ever at 53.6 bushels per acre (bpa), production continues to fall with the year ago output of 1.304 billion bushels (bb) the third lowest since 2006.
Winter wheat is not isolated in this regard as both durum and spring wheat acreage and production has also declined over the years with better returns from other crops often the reason in all areas of the U.S. that produce wheat regardless of whether it is winter or spring varieties.
Still over the past 40 years the percentage of winter wheat planted as a percent of all U.S. wheat seeded, winter wheat yields as a percent of the U.S. all wheat yield and winter wheat output as a percent of total U.S. wheat production have all declined.
The rise in corn and soybean prices over the years relative to wheat values seemed to have spurred greater plantings of these crops in the Central Plains where the hard red winter wheat (HRW) variety is mostly grown.
More farmers in the southern Midwest are going with full season soybeans as opposed to double cropping soft red winter wheat and then double cropping after harvest with shorter season soybean varieties.
We also suspect droughts in recent years in the Central and Southern Plains has weighed on HRW yields more than the hard red spring (HRS) or durum yields.
The higher protein levels in both HRS and durum have also allowed those classes of wheat to retain their acreage base much more than the case for winter wheat which generally has lower protein levels.
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