The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had predicted a big soft red winter (SRW) crop for 2011/12 with an 80 percent bump in production over 2010/11.

More SRW was planted and the crop was in excellent condition coming out of dormancy in March. Since then, however, a pattern of heavy rain in the Mid-South and parts of the Midwest could be stressing SRW production potential.

 “Ohio is waterlogged,” said John Hoffman, a SRW producer in the south-central part of that state where 890,000 acres of SRW were planted. “I’ve heard there is a lot of wheat standing in water, so I believe we will harvest a lot less wheat in Ohio than we thought we would.

“I am more optimistic because I planted quite a bit of wheat in better drained fields. I expect average or better yields of about 75 bushels per acre.”

Hoffman, who represents Ohio on the USW Board of Directors, also said the rain has delayed corn and soybean planting in Ohio. Last year, he finished planting both those crops by May 7. This year, he has been able to plant about 30 percent of his corn crop and none of his soybean crop.  

Significant SRW losses are yet to be tallied in Arkansas and Louisiana after record flood crests were intentionally diverted into agricultural land to protect downstream Mississippi River cities.

Major SRW states Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri are also fighting too much rain. Together, these states planted nearly 3.7 million acres (1.5 million hectares) of SRW wheat.

Much of the SRW crop remains in generally good condition and producers are hoping the weather pattern will moderate before harvest in the Midwest starts in three to four weeks.

Conditions have been much better in the mid-Atlantic and southeast SRW production region.

 “We are looking at the best crop we’ve had since 2008,” said North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association Executive Director Dan Weathington. “There is very little disease pressure and with plenty of rain earlier this spring, yield potential is running up to 80 bushels per acre.”

Producers in North Carolina planted about 700,000 acres of SRW this year.  

Weathington said North Carolina wheat producers are benefitting from fears about the corn supply. Corn prices have remained high following USDA’s very low ending stocks estimate and this year’s planting delay.

With a futures price spread between July corn and July SRW of $0.54 on May 25, SRW is fetching good prices for feed in North Carolina, a state that produces more hogs than any other state except Iowa.

Jason Scott was planting soybeans this week as he described his SRW crop in Maryland. Scott is president of the Maryland Grain Producers Association and represents his state on the USW Board of Directors.

 “Our wheat looks good and that’s important because we have invested in this crop for high yields and quality with these good cash prices,” Scott said. In fact, he just started irrigating some of his wheat in the past week. “We are probably three to four weeks away from starting our wheat harvest.”

Both Scott and Weathington said all the crops in their states could use some rain.

Questions remain about the final impact of drought and excessive rain on the U.S. wheat crop. Until those questions are answered, it is important to note that while the world’s most reliable wheat supplier will carryover 14 percent less wheat into the new marketing year compared to 2009/10, ending supplies are significantly greater than in 2008/09 and 2007/08.