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USDA estimates record winter wheat crop in Arkansas

10/4/2013 at 10:30 a.m.

From the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture:

Arkansas winter wheat producers who are just weeks away from planting will be going into their next season with an expected record yield from the crop they harvested in June.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting a yield of 62 bushels per acre from the crop harvested in 2013, beating the old state record of 61 bushels set in 2006.

Steve Stevens of Tillar in southeast Arkansas said his wheat yields seemed to reflect USDA’s forecast. 

“As a whole it did,” he said. “We were seeing yields from the low 60s to almost 80 bushels per acre. I think it was good varieties and a bit of luck. We had a pretty wet winter, and wheat as a whole doesn’t like to have wet feet.”

“Arkansas wheat producers were excited about outstanding wheat yields this year,” said Jason Kelley, extension wheat and feed grains agronomist for the UofA Division of Agriculture. “With a cool and wet spring that delayed spring crop planting, there were a lot of predictions that the wheat crop wouldn’t be very good. Typically we have our highest yields when we get a dry spring and high yields this year were a pleasant surprise.”

“What caused the high yields? I believe the cool weather was beneficial to allow a long grain fill period,” Kelley said. “In Europe, the Pacific Northwest, other places that have really high wheat yields, they typically have cool temperatures and a long duration from wheat heading to maturity, which is exactly what we experienced this year.” 

Kelley added that “having wheat pre-sold at high prices also made it easier to justify inputs for the crop such as foliar fungicides to control diseases and proper fertilizer rates. 

Planning for the 2014 crop

Extension economist Scott Stiles said the markets were presenting wheat with a somewhat gloomy face.

“Compared to this point in time last year, July wheat futures are significantly lower —  22 percent lower,” he said. “But, with July ’14 wheat trading near $6.90 this week, there is opportunity for profit.”

Similar to corn and soybeans, wheat futures have also worked significantly lower over the past 12 months.  A year ago, July 2013 Wheat futures were trading at $8.54.

On a more positive note, the cost of fertilizer has declined over the past 12 months. For example, urea is about 25 percent less expensive compared to last year. Dealer quotes near $400 per ton and lower for urea have been common around Arkansas in recent days. These dramatic price changes in wheat and fertilizer should be two main drivers behind a fresh look at 2014 costs and returns. 

Stiles said that “given the noticeable changes over the past year in both wheat and fertilizer prices, I strongly encourage growers to use our extension crop budgeting resources and spreadsheet tools. Once spreadsheet budgets are established, they are very easy to update. 

“Extension economists would be glad to work with anyone or a group of producers on crop budgeting,” he said. 

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