Winter Wheat Production Up Almost 13 Percent
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation’s winter wheat harvest this year should reach 1.81 billion bushels, up almost 13 percent from 1992, the Agriculture Department said Tuesday in its first estimate for the crop.
Based on May 1 conditions, the department estimated average yields of 40.8 bushels per acre on 44.3 million acres, a 6 percent increase in area harvested.
Last year, growers harvested 1.61 billion bushels from 41.9 million acres for an average yield of 38.3 bushels an acre.
The 1991 harvest was 1.37 billion bushels an acre, compared with records of 2.03 billion set in 1990 and 2.06 billion set in 1984.
The crop is mostly in good condition although late developing, the department said. The department reported Monday that as of May 9, only 19 percent of the crop in the top-producing states was headed - the sign of maturity - compared with 48 percent a year ago and an average of 36 percent.
″The big question we have as individual producers is probably that our wheat is two weeks behind normal in development,″ said Merrill Nielsen, a grower in Denmark, Kan., and president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.
The department projects a harvest of 425.6 million bushels for Kansas, the largest producing state for winter wheat. Last year, a late freeze helped bring the harvest down to 363.8 million bushels.
But the crop is only 1 percent headed, compared with 60 percent last year and a 35 percent average. Immature crops are vulnerable to drying up when the weather turns hot.
″With it being two weeks behind, we run the risk that the hot weather is going to hit us before the crop gets mature,″ he said.
In Montana, where the harvest is projected at 90 million bushels compared with a drought-hindered 60.9 million bushels a year ago, growers say it is still early in the game.
″We have an awfully good start,″ said Jim Christianson, executive vice president of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee. ″But we’ve got an awfully long ways″ to go.
Winter wheat accounts for about 65 percent of the nation’s wheat production. Harvest begins as early as May in states like Texas and wraps up in July in states like Washington.
Wheat futures closed mixed in anticipation of a projected harvest in the 1.8 billion bushel range. But growers say their prices have been depressed because of a lack of exports to China and the former Soviet Union.
″It’s nice to have a good crop, but if it isn’t worth anything on the other end, if there isn’t somebody to eat it, to buy it, it certainly takes the glow off in terms of looking at a good start,″ Christianson said.