Beneficial rainfall leads to above-average fall planted wheat

Randi Williams, Texas AgriLife Today

October 25, 2023

Timely rainfall in some areas has been highly beneficial for the fall wheat crop, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert. 

Jourdan Bell, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo, said she expects to see above average acres planted in the northern High Plains region as a result of improved soil moisture conditions, but planting in the central High Plains is delayed because of warm, dry conditions. Many fields planted southwest of Amarillo have not emerged or have already dried out.

Planning and Planting for 2024 production

Rainfall has been spotty, but planted wheat fields in the most northern counties are doing well, Bell said. Crop progress should continue to improve in areas that receive timely rains, she noted.

Wheat has an extremely long growing season. Many producers use wheat as grazing land for their beef cattle herds during the winter months. Fields intended for grazing were planted from late August to early September although planting conditions are typically ideal for wheat in October.

“When planting in October, we are escaping early fall insect pest pressure and reducing the risk for wheat curl mite infestation, which will lead to wheat streak mosaic virus,” Bell said. 

Producers who are planting their wheat crop solely for grain have a longer planting window and can wait to plant their crop until mid-to-late November. 

Mark Welch, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension grain marketing economist, Bryan-College Station, said he expects the 2024 wheat crop to have a better production environment since weather patterns are transitioning from La Niña to El Niño.

“We have noticed that wheat produces better yields during the El Niño weather events,” Welch said. “2024 crops have an advantage because this El Niño is supposed to be a relatively strong one.”

World wheat market and changing wheat prices 

The world wheat market is driven by what Russia does, Welch said, and the conflict in Ukraine continues to be part of that influence.

“Wheat is a globally traded commodity, and something as disruptive as war in a region where about 15% of the world’s wheat is grown can impact wheat prices,” Welch said. “Those impacts to prices matter to U.S. producers who produce 6-8% of total world wheat.” 

Over the last few years, Russia has been supplying more wheat to the world market; and price fluctuations have become increasingly dependent on what Russia does: production, exports, geopolitical events.

“How much we produce, how much we export, and other political events — Russia holds more leverage over the world wheat market in a time that world wheat supplies continue to get tighter,” Welch said.  

Since 2020, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, prices have risen from below $4 per bushel to as high as $12 per bushel. Last week’s wheat prices in Texas were $5.90 per bushel, about the same as the summer of 2021.

“The U.S. is self-sufficient in producing wheat,” said Welch. “We import about 120 million bushels of wheat in a typical marketing year, about 5% of total use. All these factors matter for price implications in a world market for a key food grain.”

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