The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided very few surprises for the world wheat market when it released its annual Prospective Plantings report last week.

All wheat seeded area for 2013/14 is expected to reach 56.4 million acres, which if realized, would be 1 percent greater than last year’s actual seeded area and up slightly from an earlier estimate.

Experience shows, however, that as winter wheat begins its push to maturity, the crop’s true potential lies in the hands of Mother Nature.

The well-publicized drought in the southern and central plains has been a source of concern for hard red winter (HRW) wheat prospects.

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Despite extremely low soil moisture levels last fall, estimated HRW seeded area dropped just 3 percent from 2011/12 to 28.9 million acres.

In Kansas, the largest HRW producing state, seeded area is estimated down 2 percent to 9.3 million acres.

However, in Texas and Oklahoma, the second and third largest HRW producers respectively, estimated seeded area is unchanged from last year at 5.7 and 5.4 million acres respectively. However, the amount of winter wheat area that may be abandoned this spring is still unknown.

While drought conditions certainly affected HRW seedings, the United States has the advantage of a very large and geographically diverse growing area. Better conditions outside the plains supported increased seedings of every other class of U.S. wheat except durum.

USDA expects hard red spring (HRS) wheat area will increase an estimated 3 percent to 12.1 million acres, the most in three years.

An estimated 8 percent increase to 6.2 million acres in North Dakota, the largest HRS producing state, accounted for most of the additional acreage. Yet, there is still snow covering much of the potential spring wheat acres and a late spring could cut into the projected increase.

Soft white (SW) and hard white (HW) wheat seeding is up an estimated 1 percent to 3.99 million acres, although that total is 5 percent below the five-year average.