The USDA released its first condition rating for the 2023 U.S. winter wheat crop on Monday.
Using our usual ratings system where we weight the crop based on the percent in each category and assign that category a factor of 2 for very poor, 4 for poor, 6 for fair, 8 for good, and 10 for excellent and then sum the totals, the initial rating comes out to 660.
This is a sizable 17.4% increase above the year ago first crop condition rating of the 2023 U.S. winter wheat crop of 562, though it is below the 2000-24 average of 692.
This chart shows the first fall winter wheat rating for the top 18 producing states and the U.S. for the both the 2024 and 2023 crops along with the 2000-2024 average on the left-hand axis.
Reported on the right-hand axis is the rank of this year's initial winter wheat crop rating with a 1 signifying the best first crop rating since 2000 while a 25 means the worst.
It is interesting to view this graphic after looking at a side-by-side comparison of the U.S. Drought Monitor for the latest week, which is Oct 24, 2023, vs. the year ago Oct 25, 2022, map.
At this time a year ago, much of the western U.S. was mired in severe to even extreme drought, particularly the large winter wheat producing states of California, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
Heavy rains for much of this year out west have changed the fortunes of many of these states dramatically.
For instance, the current Montana reading of 846 is its best since 2000, 37.3% above the year ago figure and 143 points above its 25-year average.
Recent rains seem to have helped out the Plains states as CO, KS, NE, OK and TX all have higher ratings than last year.
The impact of the long-standing drought has lingered however for though the first crop rating for the Kansas winter wheat crop, the nation's largest, is 5.6% ahead of the year ago figure, the current rating of 562 still the second worst since 2000 next to last season and Nebraska third worst.
Also see Michigan having its second lowest initial crop rating since 2000.
Keep in mind the crop will not be harvested until mid-2024 as wheat's production potential typically hinges on springtime weather especially in the heading period.
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