This week’s unusually cold temperatures in key hard red winter wheat producing states in the Southern Plains appears to have caused some damage to wheat plants that were in the boot or even jointing stage depending in how low readings got in particular areas.
This is yet another blow to a crop that has endured drought conditions and winterkill with this week’s crop condition report coming in as one of the worst rated crops as of mid-April in 30 years.
Quantifying the damage from winterkill incurred earlier in the year and fro this week’s cold snap is difficult right now and some feel that the lagged state of development may have prevented further losses.
Nonetheless, the drought stricken crop is more susceptible to these events and with little subsoil reserves in the ground, the Southern Plains wheat crop is in desperate need of moisture as it enters the critical yield determining heading phase.
The dearth of moisture over the past few months is plotted in the accompanying graphic that shows cumulative October-March precipitation in inches for the top three hard red producing states in the Southern Plains of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
In addition to the yearly data from 1990 is the 1990-2014 Oct-Mar average which for Kansas is 8.15 inches, 13.59 inches for Oklahoma, and 11.90 inches for Texas.
Note that these are statewide averages whereas HRW production is concentrated in certain areas of each state.
For Kansas, this year’s 5.50 inches if the fifth lowest since 1990 with lower totals in 1991, 1996 2002, and 2011.
Oklahoma’s 9.06 inches is the fourth lowest since 1990 with only 2011, 2006 and 1996 seeing lower totals.
For Texas, this year’s is only the eighth lowest though only two came before 2005 which shows how much of the Southern Plains has been in long-standing drought over the past ten years.
Some of the driest Oct-Mar periods for Texas were 2013, 2011, 2009, and 1996.
Interestingly many of these dry years for all three states such as 1991, 1996, 2006 and 2011 showed U.S. winter wheat yields coming in well below trend.
The dry conditions in these three states, particularly Kansas, the largest wheat producing state in the country no doubt contributed to this situation.