USDA’s first look at planted winter wheat acreage gave mixed reports for the different winter wheat classes (HRW, SRW and white wheat), but farmers coast to coast caution that the crop remains vulnerable until harvest.

USDA upped its estimate for total winter wheat seeded area to 41.9 million acres for 2012 in its Jan. 12. Winter Wheat Seedings report. The increase is 3 percent above 2011 and 12 percent above 2010, which USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service attributed to higher prices and an acreage rebound in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

HRW acreage up

For Kansas, the largest HRW producing state, USDA reported winter wheat acres increased 8 percent to 9.5 million acres. Like many farmers in western Kansas last year, Dighton farmer Ron Suppes had a failed wheat crop. He reports that he planted more HRW this year to take advantage of the fertilizer he applied to last year’s crop.

Bill Spiegel, director of communications for Kansas Wheat, added that many farmers with failed corn, soybean and sorghum crops planted those fields to wheat, further incentivized by the relatively high federal crop insurance target price at the time.

Across the state in Muscotah, Kan., farmer Jay Armstrong explained that his wheat acres were up slightly only because of the size of fields planted this year compared to last, noting that farmers in northeast Kansas do not plant much wheat.

For Texas, USDA increased winter wheat acreage 11 percent to 5.9 million acres, putting planted acres back on track with the historical average according to Steelee Fischbacher, communications director at the Texas Wheat Producers Board and Association. She explained that moisture remains a critical factor in translating planted acres to harvested acres.