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U.S. Winter-Wheat Conditions Improve as Rain Boosts Midwest Crop

The condition of the U.S. winter-wheat crop improved last week after rain fell in growing areas in the Midwest. The cotton harvest neared completion.

About 47 percent of the winter wheat was rated good or excellent as of yesterday, compared with 46 percent a week earlier and 64 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a weekly report. An estimated 91 percent of the crop emerged as of yesterday, compared with 87 percent a week earlier and 89 percent, on average, the previous five years, the USDA said.

Soft-red wheat growing areas in southern Indiana and Ohio received as much as 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) of rain last week, said Drew Lerner, the president of World Weather Inc. Most of the Midwest had less than 70 percent of normal rainfall in the past 30 days, with parts of southeast Missouri, Illinois and northern Indiana getting less than 25 percent, he said.

The rain was “definitely a step in the right direction,” Lerner said from Overland Park, Kansas. “Wheat is a grass, so it responds really well to light amounts of moisture. It doesn’t have a deep root system, so if you pick up an inch or an inch and a half, the crop will respond pretty rapidly.”

Wheat crops will soon go dormant for the winter and be harvested starting in May. The department will release its estimate of winter-wheat planted acreage in January.

Some crops in the northern Great Plains from Nebraska to northwest Kansas may enter dormancy as early as this week, as temperatures fall below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 12 Celsius) starting on Nov. 25, Lerner said.

“Temperatures will still bounce around a bit, but at a bare minimum, we’ll be moving into semi-dormancy across the northern areas,” he said.

The cotton harvest was 86 percent completed, up from 78 percent a week earlier and the previous five-year average of 73 percent, the USDA said. Dry weather in Texas, the largest producing state, has allowed the harvest to accelerate, and “no meaningful” rainfall is in the forecast for the next 10 days, Lerner said.

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