Por Julie Gingersen
CHICAGO, USAOct 17 – With planting about halfway done, the 2023 U.S. hard red winter wheat crop is already being hit by drought in the heart of the Southern Plains, wheat experts said.
Planting plans could reduce U.S. barns despite historically high prices for this time of year, reflecting rising global demand and tighter supplies of wheat around the world, which is forecast to end the spring season. 2022/23 at the lowest level in the last six years.
Supply shortages have been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which has disrupted grain exports from the Black Sea region.
The drought threatens Kansas, the top winter wheat-producing state, and Oklahoma in two ways: by discouraging farmers who haven’t planted yet from trying, and by jeopardizing the proper development of crops already planted. .
“It’s a pretty grim situation,” said Kent Winter, who farms in Andale, Kansas. Normally, he says, he sows in mid-October, but this year he still hasn’t planted wheat.
If it doesn’t rain in the next 10 days, he will start to “sprinkle” the crop and hope for moisture. The final planting dates for full crop insurance coverage are approaching, which run from October 15 in northwestern Kansas to November 15 in the southeast.
Without moisture, wheat sprouts might not emerge from the soil. Even a delay would jeopardize yield potential by reducing the chance that the plants will develop a tough root system and put out more stems, known as tillers, before winter.
“This puts a nail in the coffin,” said Mark Hodges, an agronomist with Plains Grains Inc, an Oklahoma-based group that tests wheat quality. Hodges said, “If you don’t have the growers in the fall, it’s really hard to make up that number in the spring.”
Fears of a supply squeeze are reflected in the Kansas City Wheat futures contract, which is trading around $9.40 a bushel, the highest price for a new crop July contract at this time. of the year, in the middle of the autumn planting season.
About two-thirds of the wheat in the United States, which is among the world’s top five exporters, is grown in winter rather than spring.
While farmers in the plains want to take advantage of high prices, dry weather can discourage growers from committing to high-priced seed and fertilizer.
As a result, Justin Gilpin, executive director of the Kansas Wheat Commission, expected the number of acres of Kansas wheat planted for harvest in 2023 to hold steady at 7.3 million acres planted by 2022.
Winter agreed. “With the price of wheat, many operators were planning to at least match or even increase their acreage for this coming year. But this drought is greatly influencing plans,” he said.
Wheat is a famously resilient crop that can bounce back from bad weather, but forecasts indicate drought will linger in the southern Plains until December.
A key driver of the drought is the La Niña weather phenomenon, which tends to favor hot, dry conditions in the plains. The current La Niña phenomenon is in its third year.