U.S. winter-wheat conditions improved since the last time they were measured in November as rain and snow boosted prospects in Kansas and Oklahoma, the biggest growers, according to the Department of Agriculture.
The crop was rated 34 percent good or excellent in the first rating of the season, up from 33 percent in November, before the plants went dormant, the USDA said in a report today. In Kansas, the biggest winter producer, 31 percent earned top ratings versus 29 percent. In Oklahoma, 27 percent was in good or excellent condition, up from 14 percent, USDA data show.
“We’ve had the moisture over here,” Jamey Kohake, a broker and branch manager at Paragon Investments in Silver Lake, Kansas, said in a telephone interview. “We had really good snowpack cover that melted and the panhandle area of Oklahoma had really good rains.”
Wheat futures for May delivery fell 3.5 percent to $6.64 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. The price earlier dropped to $6.5975 a bushel, the lowest since June 20. On the Kansas City Board of Trade, futures retreated 2.3 percent to $7.0975 a bushel after reaching $7.045, the lowest since June 22.
The crop was rated 58 percent good or excellent at this time last year, USDA data show. The southern Great Plains, where the worst drought since the 1930s has led to blowing dirt storms reminiscent of the Dust Bowl, will need moisture and above- freezing temperatures to ensure crops will grow before harvest in May and June, Kohake said.
“We’re going to need some more rain,” he said. “The crop isn’t made yet, and there’s some time for frost damage to be done. So far, it doesn’t seem like it’s staying cold enough long enough to do damage.”
The U.S. rice crop was 12 percent planted, down from 14 percent at the same time a year earlier, and sorghum was 16 percent seeded, unchanged from March 31, 2012, according to the USDA report. Oats were 32 percent sown, down from 44 percent a year earlier, government data show.
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