Mid-South wheat acreage is expected to decline 63 percent from 2003-04 due to wet conditions that prevented plantings, according to USDA’s January winter wheat seedings report.

Declines are expected in every Mid-South state: Arkansas dropped 64 percent, from 670,000 acres to 240,000 acres; Louisiana, 28 percent, from 180,000 acres to 130,000 acres; Mississippi, 31 percent, from 160,000 acres to 110,000 acres; and Tennessee, 27 percent, from 400,000 acres to 290,000 acres.

In Arkansas, conditions were dry during the first week of October 2004. Then, as planting time for wheat approached, the bottom fell out. According to Jason Kelley, the state’s Extension wheat specialist, “Once it did begin raining, there were a couple of breaks in the clouds – half days or a day, maybe – where we thought we’d get into our best drained soils. But then, it would rain again.”

Overall, Mid-South wheat acreage (excluding the Missouri Bootheel) dropped from 2.08 million acres in 2003-04 to an estimated 770,000 acres for 2004-05.

Total U.S. winter wheat seeded area for 2005 is expected to reach 41.6 million acres, down 4 percent from 2004. Approximate class acreage breakdowns are: hard red winter, 30.5 million acres; soft red winter, 6.6 million acres; and white winter, 4.5 million acres.

Winter wheat seeding began last August and advanced ahead of the 5-year average pace until the middle of October, when wet weather slowed progress. Nearly all of the U.S. acreage was seeded by Dec. 1. Most remaining intended area is in the Southeast and California.

Although frequent rainfall hampered seeding progress in many areas, the precipitation was beneficial and contributed to record high condition ratings throughout much of the fall, according to USDA.

Hard red winter wheat seeded area is down 1 percent from 2004. Growers in Texas and Oklahoma planted significantly fewer acres this year, due largely to wet fall weather. Late cotton harvest and high cattle prices also contributed to the declines. Conversely, large acreage increases occurred in Colorado and Montana, where seeding conditions and moisture supplies were supportive.

Soft red winter area is estimated to be down 19 percent from last year due to wet fall conditions that prevented operators from planting all their acreage. Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, and New Jersey are all at record low levels.

White winter wheat seeded area is estimated to be up 4 percent from 2004. Farmers in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington took advantage of good seeding conditions and adequate soil moisture and planted more acres than a year ago.

Durum wheat seedings in Arizona and California for 2005 harvest are estimated at 210,000 acres, down 5 percent from 2004 acreage. Planting is ongoing in California's San Joaquin and Imperial Valleys. No major problems with the crop have been reported.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com