Winter Wheat Update – June 13, 2018

CropProphet forecasts for 2017-2018 winter wheat have now ended, as harvesting is now beginning to advance northward into the central Plains. CropProphet does not use harvesting information to refine the forecasts, and therefore the CropProphet data will soon be superceded by measured yields.

The past month has seen almost no change in the national outlook for winter wheat yield and production, with the CropProphet forecasts showing an expected US yield near 45.5 bushels per acre (bpa), or nearly 10% lower than 2017. However, there have been modest changes in regional wheat prospects; yield expectations have decreased from Missouri to the Great Lakes, but there has been some recovery for wheat in the Plains (see figure below). In Kansas, the largest winter wheat growing state, the CropProphet forecast has increased to 36.2 bushels per acre, which is a modest improvement from the 34 bpa that was expected in April (see figure below). Nebraska and Colorado have improved enough that the yield forecasts are no longer below the long-term trend in those states.



Generally dry weather has persisted in the past 30 days over a majority of the wheat growing areas from the southern Plains to the Mississippi River, although some areas have seen heavy rains from strong thunderstorm activity (see figure below). More widespread heavy rain has occurred in the High Plains from northwestern Kansas to Wyoming. The recent improvement in the CropProphet forecasts from Oklahoma to Colorado and Nebraska is partly related to the improved moisture levels in the areas that have received rain, but it is also related to plentiful sunshine in May (see figure below); the amount of sunshine during May is a significant CropProphet predictor for winter wheat in Oklahoma and Kansas.


Winter wheat to the east of the Missouri River has not fared as well in the past month, and Missouri in particular has seen a steady yield decline to significantly below-trend levels (see figure below). This trend is mostly related to the excessive warmth during May (see figure below), and the downward trend has continued in June as satellite monitoring has revealed worsening prospects.


In comparison to the June 12 USDA crop production estimates, CropProphet now shows considerably worse yields from Missouri to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley (see figure below). The CropProphet yield forecast for Oklahoma is also much worse than the USDA estimate, and indeed CropProphet’s Oklahoma yield forecast of 20 bpa is nearly as low as the 2014 outcome. On a national basis, the CropProphet forecast is 2.9 bpa and 45 million bushels lower than USDA, and this is nearly the same difference as in May; the latest USDA estimates were nearly unchanged from the May crop production report.

In summary, the 2017-2018 U.S. winter wheat crop was significantly damaged by drought from Texas to Kansas, and extreme warmth in May also reduced yield prospects across the Midwest. These difficulties were partially offset by good growing conditions in the Pacific Northwest, and overall U.S. yields will not be as low as 2014 and 2015, but nevertheless the outcome will be significantly reduced from the past two years.