U.S. Wheat Crops in Better Shape Than Year Ago, USDA Says

April 2 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. winter-wheat crop is in better shape than it was at this time last year, the government said, as warm temperatures and ample rainfall in March benefited plants in the southern and central Great Plains.

About 58 percent of the wheat was rated good or excellent as of yesterday, up from 37 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report, the first this year to assess conditions in all growing states. An estimated 52 percent of the crop received the top ratings on Nov. 28, before plants went dormant for the winter.

“The market was expecting good conditions, and that’s what the USDA reported today,” said Alan Brugler, the president of Brugler Marketing & Management LLC in Omaha, Nebraska. “The crops will not be safe from freezing temperatures for the next 30 days, but overall the crop is looking pretty good.”

Plants benefited from temperatures as much as 12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal last month from Texas to Montana, according to data from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Soil moisture in the southern Plains improved with some fields getting more than twice the normal amount of rain. Harvesting will begin in late May.

Warm weather also accelerated planting of spring varieties from Washington state to Minnesota, Brugler said.

Sowing was 8 percent completed as of April 1, up from 1 percent a year ago and 2 percent on average for the prior five seasons, the USDA said. Planting was the most advanced in South Dakota with 25 percent of the seeds in the ground, up from 2 percent on average from 2007-2011, the agency said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Wilson in Chicago at jwilson29@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net.