The largest by-class increase in estimated seeded area was for soft red winter (SRW), up 19 percent to 9.67 million acres. That is the most since 2008/09. Increases from last year are expected in almost every SRW state, including a record high 960,000 acres in North Carolina.

In contrast, the largest decline among all the U.S. wheat classes will come in durum. USDA estimates durum seeded area will be down 18 percent from last year to 1.75 million acres, which would be the second lowest since 1960/61.

Erica Olson, marketing specialist with the North Dakota Wheat Commission, attributed a potential decline to tough competition from spring wheat and other crops. USDA expects that in North Dakota, the country’s largest durum producing state, durum seeded area will fall an estimated 18 percent to 1.1 million acres.

 “Producers look for a significant price premium at planting time,” Olson said, “and they do not see that right now with durum.”

When USDA released its first winter wheat Crop Progress report of the spring on April 1, the percentage of all winter wheat rated good to excellent improved by 1 percent to 34 percent.

Most wheat growing regions, including a big portion of the drought-stricken plains states, received good moisture in February and March that improved growing conditions.

However, the percentage of the crop, mostly HRW, rated poor or very poor also increased 4 percent. Thirty percent of the crop is now rated poor or very poor.

Last year at this time, 58 percent of the crop was rated good or excellent while just 12 percent was rated poor to very poor. Winter wheat areas will need additional, timely rain in the next couple months to maintain or improve crop conditions.

The Prospective Plantings report is only an early indication of what the crop year could bring. It is good for buyers to remember that even in years when seeding conditions are not favorable, the United States is capable of producing average or above-average wheat crops.

U.S. wheat farmers have once again done their professional and optimistic best to produce an abundant, high-quality crop. From now until harvest, it is Mother Nature’s turn.