A myriad of factors are behind deteriorating crop conditions for winter wheat in the southern and central plains. Rod Bain reports:
"We've seen some deterioration in the crop across the central and southern plains." USDA Meterologist Brad Rippey gives the nation's leading winter wheat producing state, Kansas, as an example: "Back on November 28th, we saw one quarter of the crop rated in "Very Poor" to "Poor" condition as the crop began to head into dormancy. Now, jump forward to the end of December, and we now see one third of the crop, thirty-three percent, rated "Very Poor" to "Poor". At the same time the percentage of the crop rated "Good" to "Excellent" has fallen from thirty-seven to twenty-seven percent."
Now, Rippey says while there's not been a solitary factor behind the deteriorating condition of the wheat crop in the central and southern plains:
"We've seen an accumulation of events, that being: the developing drought; the temperature extremes; frequently windy conditions... that have taken a gradual toll on the winter wheat crops across the central plains."
Rippey adds nearly perfect weather conditions in the next two months are needed to revive the winter wheat crop going into March and April. So with that in mind, the question posed to Rippey is: Will the weather improve for the winter wheat crop any time soon?
"We certainly don't see any significant improvements coming for the winter wheat situation." Rippey says, in fact, the most significant arctic outbreak of the winter is expected to bring dry, cold air into much of the nation this week, with moisture avoiding the central and southern plains.
"That will be another major concern for this central and southern plains wheat crop where we could see temperatures even below what we saw in late December and likely plunging well below zero at the height of this cold outbreak."
One positive note on the nation's winter wheat crop: moisture in the eastern corn belt the past two months has led to improvements in crop condition for that region's winter wheat plantings.
Rod Bain reporting from Washington, DC