Fundamentally Speaking

Last Fall, First Spring Winter Wheat Ratings

This week’s first spring rating for the 2014 U.S. winter wheat crop showed sharp deterioration noted over the winter due to ongoing drought conditions and widespread winterkill damage from bitterly cold temperatures over the past few months.

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 VP, 4 for P, 6 for F, 8 for G, and 10 for EX and then sum the results the first spring report showed conditions at 602, the sixth worst rated crop since 1990.

The crop actually started out in decent shape helped by good moisture conditions last fall with the final fall rating of 722, the third highest of the past ten years.

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The stressful conditions since late November resulted in a 120 point reduction in crop conditions and that is the second largest decline noted over the past 25 years topped only by the 152 point slide from November 2008 to April 2009.

Is there a connection between early spring crop conditions and final yields?

It has been proven time and time again that good spring weather including moderate temperatures during the critical heading process and timely precipitation can help resurrect a crop leading to decent final yields.

That may not be reflected until the August or even the final small grains report given in late September.

Low spring crop ratings often do result in below trend yields at least for the first winter wheat production report released in May.

This graphic, in addition to showing the last fall and first spring rating for the U.S. winter wheat crop shows the percent deviation of the May national yield from the 1985-2013 final yield trend.

The only lower ratings than seen for the first spring condition report was 598 last year when the May yield was 3.8% below trend, another 598 two years before that with the first yield indication 4.2% below trend.

The first spring rating in 2007 was 594 with the May yield 5.0% below trend, a 568 reading in 2003 with yields flat vs. trend and the lowest rating of all back in April 1997 of 554 that one month later resulted in a May 1997 yield figure 12.2% below trend.

With below normal rains forecast for much of the Southern Plains over the next two weeks it appears likely that the first 2014 U.S. winter wheat yield estimate will come in below, perhaps significantly below trend when it is released next month.


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