The condition of winter wheat is sure hard to pin down in the northern US state of Montana.

Having in the week to November 13 improved by 17 points, in terms of the proportion rated “good” or “excellent” by the US Department of Agriculture, the rating in the following week gave back 11 points.

That left the crop in what is usually the third-ranked US wheat-producing state back at a not-so-promising 30% rated good or excellent – below even the national reading which, at 32%, held at its lowest on data going back to 1995.

That said, the winter does not make it easy for USDA crop scouts, which reported a week ago that “the majority of the state currently has 4-8 inches of accumulated snow”.

‘Temperatures dipped significantly’

And that is the lucky part, in wheat terms, in having a blanket to protect it from the snow.

For the week to November 20, “extremely cold temperatures persisted this week, with average daily temperatures well below normal,” Montana scouts said.

“For much of the state, average daily temperatures ranged from 8 to 16 degrees [Fahrenheit] below average for this time of year.

“Temperatures dipped significantly this week… falling below 0 degrees in some area,” ie below 17.8 degrees Celsius.

‘Recent rain has helped’

By contrast it was some of the southern, warmer areas of the US which witnessed wheat crop improvement in the last week.

In Texas, where “recent rain has helped some areas in the state with oats and wheat development”, the rating improved by 1%, albeit just to a not-quite-so-dismal 19% good or excellent.

The rating in drought-struck Oklahoma, which received a valuable 0.4 inches of rain over the week, improved by 4 points to 23%.

Still, all eyes are as ever on Kansas, the top wheat-growing state, which held steady at a struggling 24% – siding neither with its southern neighbour Oklahoma nor its northern neighbour Nebraska, where the reading eased by 1 point week on week.


US winter wheat ratings as of November 22
State Percent of crop rated good or excellent
Change on week
Arkansas 73 +4
California 100 +5
Colorado 20 -1
Idaho 38 -3
Illinois 35 0
Indiana 63 0
Kansas 24 0
Michigan 67 +2
Missouri 58 +4
Montana 30 -11
Nebraska 21 -1
North Carolina 81 -5
Ohio 58 +3
Oklahoma 23 +4
Oregon 71 -2
South Dakota 32 +8
Texas 19 +1
Washington 60 -1
18 States 32 0
Source: USDA. Condition data in percent. Change on week data in percentage points