Great Plains wheat has snow, but what is underneath?

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When snow is falling in Kansas, so is the wheat market in Kansas City.  However, with record snow that generated 18-20¢ losses in wheat contracts on Monday, the export buyers came back in Tuesday to take advantage of bargain basement prices and halted the freefall.  But the story of wheat throughout the Great Plains has certainly not seen the final chapter, and recent snows have buried a lot of evidence of how the crop will emerge from dormancy.

The two recent snowstorms that swept through large portions of the Great Plains have brought moisture unseen for over two years.  Estimates of soil moisture have improved, however anecdotal reports have persistently indicated dry soils many feet in depth. 

In Kansas, the February Crop Progress and Condition report indicates topsoil moisture supplies as of February 24 were rated 27 percent very short, 34 percent short, 36 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus; a slight improvement from the beginning of the month.”  The winter wheat condition was reported 12 percent very poor, 24 percent poor, 41 percent fair, 22 percent good, and 1 percent excellent.   Wind damage was rated as 1 percent severe, 3 percent moderate, 13 percent light, and 83 percent with no damage, while freeze damage was rated as 1 percent severe, 3 percent moderate, 10 percent light, and 86 percent with no damage.

The Oklahoma Crop Weather report, issued this week for February, also points to the recent multiple rain and snow events that have improved soil moisture conditions.  Precipitation totals for Oklahoma since September 1 are generally 59 percent to 77 percent of normal, thanks in large part to the 1-3 inches of water equivalent in the recent snowfalls. Topsoil moisture is now rated 24 percent very short, 31 percent short, 43 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus.  The subsoil is 91percent short to very short.  In Oklahoma the winter wheat is rated 19 percent very poor, 35 percent poor, 37 percent fair, and 9 percent good.

In Nebraska the Crop Progress and Condition report indicates snow fall across the eastern two thirds of the state brought much needed moisture to drought impacted areas, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office.  Snow accumulations were heaviest in the Southwest and South Central Districts with some areas exceeding 12 inches of snow.  However, the Panhandle received only limited amounts of precipitation for the month.  Wheat conditions statewide rated 14 percent very poor, 36 poor, 38 fair, 12 good, and 0 excellent, well below last year.

In South Dakota the Crop Progress and Condition report indicates lesser amounts of snowfall than in states to the south, with the western part of South Dakota receiving only a fraction of an inch of precipitation during February and over two inches of water equivalent in the eastern portion of the state.  Soil moisture was not reported. However snow cover for winter wheat was reported at 56 percent poor, 42 percent adequate and 2 percent excellent.   Winter wheat condition was rated at 20 percent very poor, 46 percent poor, 31 percent fair, and 3 percent good.


Most of the US winter wheat crop is within drought territory, but February snow falls, some of them intense, have left 2-3 inches of water equivalent in areas where drought-damaged wheat remains in dormancy.  Most wheat condition reports indicate that significant portions are in poor to very poor condition.  What lies under the snow, should it provide needed moisture, will remain uncertain until it melts.

Source: FarmGate blog

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NW Kansas  |  March, 03, 2013 at 10:57 PM

Does the moisture count if crop never came up and seed has been blown into the next state? I scout 6 counties as of now yields will be down 30 to 40 % over last year. When nothing has emerged or emerged then died hard to gain back bushels.

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