Cash Market Moves

Hot, Dry Weather Stunted Spring Wheat Growth and Yield Potential

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
Connect with Mary:
At first glance, this spring wheat field in Grafton, North Dakota, looks great. But on closer inspection, this field is only shin high, fully headed and flowering, according to Garrett Thompson, and the heads are very small. (Photo by Garrett Thompson)

"It's shot," said Garrett Thompson when I asked him about the condition of his spring wheat on June 21. "The early stuff is heading and 8-12 inches tall; tillers are aborted just trying to keep the main stem alive. Later stuff is showing what looks to be nitrogen deficiency -- not sure why, maybe lack of mineralization or the roots aren't growing and taking in nutrients from lack of rain."

Thompson added, "I have not seen one "good-to-excellent" field in all of northeast North Dakota from Milton to Drayton to Grand Forks. The usual target of 80 bushels per acre (bpa) is now cut in half. If we catch some rains this weekend (inch or better) some of the later stuff might make 60 [bpa], but I am not counting on it. Most of the wheat I would say is too far gone for a rain to save; maybe just slow the bleeding at best at this point."

Cory Tryan, grain manager of Alton Grain Terminal, LLC, Hillsboro, North Dakota, said on June 20, "We are going backwards now and 95-100 degrees with wind today -- it's getting too dry. Some of the earliest-planted wheat is headed out already and short. The week of mid-80s and wind earlier in June got it. I think this is worse up by Crookston. Agronomists are telling farmers to not put more money into the wheat; no fungicide. The later wheat, which for us is the majority, is slipping, but an inch or 2 of rain through the upcoming weekend might help it. Depends how much damage was done in the past week from the 90s and wind yesterday. I think we are already below-average potential around here on small grains."

"The hot, dry weather has been tough on wheat planted before May 25," said Keith Brandt, general manager of Plains Grain and Agronomy LLC, Enderlin, North Dakota. "That would be about half of our wheat plantings. Yield potential has been decreased by 15%-20% or more. Plantings after May 25 may not do too bad if we get the precipitation they are forecasting for the balance of this week. That would be the third year in a row that the later-planted wheat does better than the early planted wheat. Not what we were taught. Wheat plantings ended up about where we were for last year."

"Things have been looking pretty good around here lately. Caught a sizeable amount of rain last Thursday-Friday, which was a crop saver," said Kim Saueressig, McClusky, North Dakota, on June 21. "Was starting to see pretty good stress in the barley, wheat and durum on the lighter ground after the heat that we saw after Memorial Day weekend. With that said, have noticed small grains in the area that didn't see as much rain and starting to head out at a very short stage.

Saueressig added, "Whether that affected head development, time will tell. Haven't seen any stress in the corn but the timing with the rains has been better on them. Soybeans are starting to pick up steam after the rains last week. Was out looking at fields this evening and noticing a lot of variability in all the crops though. So, I'm assuming the lack of moisture and heat is probably the cause of it. Calling for more rain this weekend so hopefully it pulls through, would be nice to be sitting comfortable on soil moisture going into July."

Jeremy Burkhart, president of the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association said, "Up in the Minot area, we are looking better overall than we have the last couple of years. Rain has been spotty, between Parshall and Garrison is probably the worst right now, but we did just get anywhere from .6-1.0 of rain last night (June 21) over most of our trade area. We had decent moisture during planting, but the 90-degree days we had in early June did not help anything. Wheat seems short and some is starting to head out, but like I said, overall it looks pretty good."

Bryan Larson, Williston, North Dakota, said "We've been getting rain again. A short 2 inches in the last week will help the later-seeded crops. We had temps in the 90s at the end of May that really hurt us. My durum looks stunted and short. The bottom leaves were turning brown, and the tillers have dried up in some places. My canola is doing better, thanks to cooler temps and recent rainfall. It's flowering now."

"Spring wheat will not be getting fungicide as we are completely headed out at 12- to 18-inch height. Has only been seeded for 30 days and had under 1 inch of moisture," said Quentin Sears, Minnewaukan, North Dakota. "Very sad story on all the grain in central North Dakota as we started with a great stand, but the heat just pushed everything along too fast."

Peter Ness, Sharon, North Dakota, said "My spring wheat fields are all over the board for growth stages. Some seeds that found moisture at seeding are in the boot stage, heading at 12-15 inches tall and 10 feet away seeds that sat in dry dirt for the past month just germinated after last week's showers and are just tillering. Same goes for the barley crop. I don't have high expectations for a bin buster this year. Poverty grass strikes again!"

"Some fields are starting to head out. Some of the heading out is due to stress as it's very short," said Peter Bakkum, Mayville, North Dakota, on June 23. "We've been very spotty on moisture with some fields looking nice and others looking stressed. Hoping to catch good rains this weekend!"

Jason Hanson, owner of Rock and Roll Agronomy LLC, Webster, North Dakota, said on June 22, "We woke up to rain this morning. That will probably replenish what was taken out via wind and heat the last 10 days. Wheat crop is in tough shape. Very few fields have row closure. I don't have a field over knee high. Some of my earliest planted (best fields) only have 11-13 spiklets on them. Soil types really showed this week when wheat turned that bluish green stress color. Plants show drought induced N deficiency as the root system is so shallow and stressed.

"Early seeding looks the best; later seeding looks terrible. Feels like half a crop or less. Harvest is going to suck due to unevenness of the crop. Some of the wheat has gone from seeding to boot stage in 35 days. We are starting to head and it's almost two weeks ahead of 'normal.' A hot/dry June kills wheat yields. Almost zero fungicide for FHB (fusarium head blight) due to no environment and yield potential isn't there. It might surprise me, but it's been depressing riding these fields watching them get their butt kicked this spring."

The North Dakota Wheat Commission said as of June 18, North Dakota spring wheat crop was rated 12% poor to very poor, an increase from just 6% the previous week, and 55% good to excellent, a decline from 67% according to USDA. Nationally, 51% of the crop is rated good to excellent, and 12% poor to very poor, compared to 60% good to excellent and 7% poor to very poor the previous week. "The national crop ratings have now fallen slightly below last year at this time. The durum crop condition ratings were 76% rated good excellent, and just 1% poor to very poor. This compares to 88% good to excellent, and 1% poor to very poor the previous week. As with spring wheat regions, northern U.S. durum regions would benefit from additional precipitation to boost crop development and help stabilize crop ratings," noted NDWC.


"Our spring wheat is not in great shape right now. All of it is fully headed with early maturing varieties throwing heads almost two weeks ago already," said Ryan Wagner, Roslyn, South Dakota. "Most of it is knee high or shorter as a lack of rainfall and high temperatures over the past month have pushed it way too hard with pollination happening much earlier than expected given the late seeding. The good news is, temperatures are backing off now and we did get a little shot of rain last night (June 22) with good chances for more the next few days as well so that should help stop the bleeding, but I have lowered my expectations on the crop considerably lately and think it will be average at best and possibly a lot worse."

Tim Luken, manager Oahe Grain, Onida, South Dakota, said on June 23, "Well, it's been a very interesting but disappointing spring so far, but as I write this it's actually raining. When we started planting spring wheat in April it was on the late side due to a couple late March snow storms with 30 plus inches. Producers really didn't get going until the second to third week of April. After the wheat did get in, the moisture stopped and between the heat and lack of moisture the spring wheat and our winter wheat was in trouble. In my travels around the Pierre, Onida, Gettysburg area, the wheat looks in tough shape. Granted there are a few fields that don't look too bad due to popup showers that would come through. Spring wheat is boot high to maybe 12-16 inches headed out. Very short crop and yields are not going to be very good at all. If I had to guess, I'd say 0-15 bpa on the bad and on the good 15-25 bpa max. The farther north you go into Potter County, the wheat will benefit from the rains we have received this week due to being about 10 days later seeded than ours."

Luken said the winter wheat in the area is better than the spring wheat but said it would not be a bin buster. "This crop had a hard time coming up last fall due to dryness, and stands were not in real good shape going into winter. This spring there really wasn't much for winter kill at all, but lack of water and heat took its toll on this crop also. Again, it's short: knee high max. I would guess yields on this crop will be in the 25-40 bpa range. The next issue we will have as we get closer to harvest will be the quality of what will be harvested. I have been hearing of fields being released and sprayed out. Within the next three weeks, winter wheat harvest will start and this will tell the story. Rain amount this week in our growing area has been anywhere for .5 to over 2 inches and there is more to come. This will help fill the stressed row crops."

South Dakota crop progress as of June 18 showed winter wheat condition rated 16% very poor, 21% poor, 37% fair, 26% good, and 0% excellent.

Winter wheat headed was 85%, ahead of 73% last year, and near 81% average.

Spring wheat condition rated 10% very poor, 16% poor, 42% fair, 32% good, and 0% excellent. Spring wheat headed was 50%, well ahead of 14% last year, and ahead of 33% average.

Matthew Krueger, East Grand Forks, Minnesota, said on June 23, "The early seeded wheat had too much heat and it got pushed fast and hard into reproduction mode. Our first fields were 8-10 inches tall and heading out. Our later seeded wheat seems to be okay yet, but time will tell. Our area has only gotten about .2 inch of rain but hopefully we see another 1 inch over the weekend to really help things out. We are dry, but the corn and beans are still doing well. Lots of seed out there still sitting in dry dirt."

"The wheat here is going to be all over the board," said Vance Johnson, Breckenridge, Minnesota, on June 23. "I've got some that is headed out and started filling in that 95-plus degree heat we had last week. Not a good thing, and I've got some that's just heading out now and will fill with cooler temps. I'm hopeful some of the wheat got a couple inches in a shower a couple weeks back and some is still looking for moisture. Hopefully the stuff just heading will get some moisture this weekend and help it along. As for final yields? Good question. Hoping for 40 bpa at this rate but feeling overly optimistic at that."

Tim Dufault, Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council board member, Crookston, Minnesota, said on June 23, "Since planting started, my farm has received 2.8 inches of rain. More important is the heat. We have had too many days that were 10 to 15 degrees above average for daytime highs. Many nights had a higher-than-normal nighttime temp. Wheat likes it cool. Especially early in the season.

"So, the wheat is heading out now, about 10-14 days ahead of where it should be based on its planting date. It's also about 10 inches shorter than normal. Now the decision for growers to make is do I spend more money on a below average crop and apply a fungicide to protect it from cereal diseases that may or may not show up? I have sprayed the first two fields that were seeded. I may spray one more. But the rest I think I will skip the fungicide. Later crops are holding up OK. Corn and soybeans seem to be paused in growth waiting for rain. Sunflowers are loving the heat and dryer weather. Rain is in the forecast for this weekend, but I have seen this movie before."

Minnesota crop progress report, as of June 18, showed spring wheat was rated 1% poor, 15% very poor, 17% fair, 63% good and 4% excellent.

I asked Dufault if the weekend rains would help the short wheat crop. "It will help it fill the kernels and get good quality, but there won't be many tillers," he said.

Mary Kennedy can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn