The past two weeks have brought additional rainfall to many parts of the central and southern Plains, leading to improved growing conditions in some areas for a now quickly-maturing winter wheat crop. In particular, most of south-central Kansas, which has been badly affected by drought, has received a welcome 3-5 inches of rain in the past 30 days (see figure below). Most of Oklahoma has also enjoyed at least 2-3 inches of rain, but much less occurred in western Kansas.

As of May 14, the two-week change in CropProphet’s expected winter wheat yield was significantly positive in certain key areas of Kansas and Oklahoma, and widespread improvement also occurred from Nebraska to Montana and in the Pacific Northwest owing to favorably warm weather and plentiful soil moisture.

The most likely US yield rose to almost 46 bushels per acre (bpa) on May 14, but a notable deterioration has occurred in the latest daily update as the expected yield has dropped by as much as 5-8 bpa in eastern Kansas, western Missouri, and much of Oklahoma (see figures below). This sudden change is related to the impact of sub-freezing conditions in April when the crop was already far enough advanced to be sensitive to freeze damage. CropProphet did not reflect the freeze impacts at the time because the progress of the crop was not yet known with sufficient confidence; but now that winter wheat heading is advancing in the southern Plains, the CropProphet models are able to discern that freeze damage probably did occur.


The maps below illustrate that the unusual cold of April was preceded by warmer than normal conditions in March in the southern Plains, and consequently winter wheat was sufficiently mature to suffer damage in some areas. Future CropProphet updates may extend the impact of the freeze damage to other areas, particularly in western Kansas, as the progress of the crop becomes better understood in those counties.

The USDA’s May 10 crop production report provided the first USDA estimates of 2018 winter wheat yield and production, and the figures below show the differences between the CropProphet forecasts and the USDA numbers. CropProphet is more pessimistic regarding the winter wheat outcome in the southern Plains and the Midwest, but CropProphet expects considerably higher yields in the Pacific Northwest. On a national basis, CropProphet foresees about 4% lower winter wheat production than USDA.

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