As anticipated in the April 16 commentary, widespread rainfall occurred in the central and southern Plains in the past 10 days, bringing modest relief to very dry fields in some winter wheat growing districts. Rain amounts were above 1 inch (25mm) in most of Oklahoma and southern and eastern Kansas as well as in western Nebraska and adjacent portions of Colorado and Kansas (see figure below). However, parts of western Kansas did not fare as well, and indeed in most areas the rain amounts were too small to significantly reduce the long-term moisture deficits. CropProphet county-level aggregated data indicate that the month of April will end with less than half of normal rainfall despite the recent wet spell (second figure below).

In response to the slight moisture relief, the CropProphet county-level winter wheat forecasts have risen slightly in much of Kansas and Oklahoma (see figure below). The overall improvement in the Plains states is rather minimal, but nevertheless it is significant that the previous downward trend in expected yield has ceased for now.

CropProphet’s national winter wheat yield forecast reflects the change in trend on about April 23 (see figure below), but the subsequent improvement in the yield outlook is mostly related to improvement in the Pacific Northwest rather than in the Plains. Northwestern growing areas have seen a change from colder than normal conditions to unusual warmth in the past week, and with generally adequate soil moisture in place, the onset of warm spring conditions is favorable for winter wheat prospects; Washington’s expected wheat yield has risen by more than 3 bushels per acre in the past two weeks.