Spring wheat yield prospects in western Minnesota are in line with last year but the crop is already being harvested, about two weeks ahead of normal, scouts on an annual crop tour said.
Crops near Fargo, North Dakota, on the North Dakota-Minnesota border, appeared to have suffered from hot and dry conditions, but fields to the south looked better.
Scouts on one leg of the Wheat Quality Council's three-day tour checked three fields in Clay and Wilkin counties in westernmost Minnesota and calculated an average yield of 42.7 bushels per acre. That compares with the year-ago tour average for the same route of 44.2 bpa. Scouts calculated the yield in a fourth field, in Sargent County, North Dakota, at 42.5 bushels per acre.
USDA said the average spring wheat yield for Wilkin County in 2011 was 40.8 bpa and Clay was 41.3.
"It's a bit below producer expectations because they planted early. That area close to Fargo is the toughest," said Jim Peterson, marketing director of the North Dakota Wheat Commission, referring to drought.
"Farther south, yields are in the 50-bushel range, and the kernel size looks good," Peterson said.
The fields showed no evidence of damage from disease or insects, although scouts noted some grasshoppers in the fields. All the wheat looked ripe and ready for harvest.
Scouts on another leg of the tour in northeast South Dakota scouted two spring wheat fields with yields averaging near 40 bushels per acre. A grain elevator employee at Sisseton said average yields in the area were running near 45 bushels per acre, with test weights near 62 lbs per bushel and protein near 14.5 per cent.
Spring wheat fields were scarce in northeast South Dakota, where farmers instead planted more corn in a bid for higher profits, scouts said.
An employee at a grain elevator in Wolverton, Minnesota, said area farmers were about half done with harvest, and yields were running in the mid-60 bushel-per-acre range. The employee said test weights were near 64 lbs per bushel while protein content was between 13 and 14 per cent.
Drought conditions expanded from the U.S. Midwest into the northern Plains recently and were expected to take the top off what had recently been viewed as a bumper crop. Crop conditions have deteriorated in recent weeks but many analysts said the advanced maturity of the crop saved it from severe damage.
Spring wheat futures have leapt 30 per cent since mid-June, largely due to the strong gains in corn prices. Concerns about crop development in the Black Sea region also have contributed to strength in wheat.
The tour concludes in Fargo on Thursday afternoon.
Julie Ingwersen is a Reuters reporter