The US wheat winter wheat crop has made its worst start on record, thanks to dryness which has rendered more of it rated in “poor” or “very poor” condition than seen as “good” or “excellent”.

The US Department of Agriculture, in its first rating of US winter wheat planted for the 2023 harvest, assessed 28% as being in good or excellent condition.

“The initial fall rating was lowest since at least 1987 when USDA started reporting,” said Terry Reilly at Futures International, with the figure fall well short too of the 41% number investors had expected.

The previous low for an initial reading, of 40% good or excellent, was set in 2012, a year of severe US drought.

The trailing five-year average reading is 50%, on GrainPriceNews calculations.

‘Very little emerged’

Meanwhile, the proportion of winter wheat rated poor or very poor, at 35%, hit a record high for the date, to exceed the good or excellent reading for the first time during an autumn.

The weak start reflected dryness which is dogging much of the US Plains, the key wheat-growing region, with 99.8% of Nebraska rated by officials as being in drought as well as 92.6% of Kansas, the top wheat producing state, and 100% of Oklahoma.

In Kansas, 24% of wheat was rated in good or excellent health, with just 11% of the Oklahoma crop making that grade.

In central Oklahoma, scouts “indicated that winter wheat is continuing to be planted, with very little reported as emerged”.

In Colorado, where some frosts have been noted too, the reading came in at 22% good or excellent, compared with a five-year average figure of 51%.

Dry Midwest too

Dryness in the southern Plains, which grows in the main hard red winter wheat, is common in periods of La Nina, as currently being observed.

More unusually, some parts of the Midwest are witnessing drier-than-normal conditions too, with 37.8% of Illinois, for instance, viewed by the USDA as being in drought, compared with a 9.3% figure a year ago.

In Illinois, a major grower of soft red winter wheat, 35% of crop was assessed as being in good or excellent condition – less than half the 2021 initial reading of 76%.