Worsening U.S. Plains Dryness Seen as Threat to Wheat by Martell

Worsening dryness in the U.S. is a threat to hard red winter wheat, agricultural-weather forecaster Martell Crop Projections said.

Dry weather has resumed in the southern Great Plains after a wet September, slowing germination of the grain, Martell wrote in an e-mailed report today. Half of the hard red winter wheat has emerged with 80 percent planted, and the gap widened in October on worsening dryness, Martell wrote.

Much of Kansas and Oklahoma, the largest producers of the hard red winter wheat variety used to make bread, are in severe to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“Other seasons with pre-planting drought have led to a reduced harvest, with few exceptions,” Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin-based Martell wrote. “Without an abundant store of subsoil moisture, hard red winter wheat has become more vulnerable to moisture stress.”

Very dry winters bring a risk of soil erosion, with winds picking up loose dirt that can damage wheat and bury small plants, according to the forecaster. Satellite images showed strong, gusty winds caused a dust veil in the Great Plains last week, Martell said.

The trend for drier weather in the Great Plains may be linked to a weakening El Nino, a warming of the Pacific Ocean, Martell wrote.

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