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Wheat acres up, but many are in poor condition

In Ohio, 930,000 acres were planted with wheat compared to last year’s total of 780,000 acres, according to the USDA. Seeding of winter wheat acres are up 10 percent to total 41 million acres nationwide, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.

Helping fuel last fall’s renewed interest in wheat were better economics and favorable planting conditions, said Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt.

“The price of wheat escalated in the fall of 2010 with the poor wheat production in Russia and Canada,” he said. “Secondly, conditions for planting wheat improved dramatically with the early harvest of corn and soybeans, and by fall helped producers get the crop planted in a timely manner.”

Cash prices for wheat are hovering at $7 per bushel. Corn is trading at a cash price of about $6 a bushel, with soybeans about $13.50 a bushel.

While $7 would seem an attractive price, wheat might not be able to compete with $6 corn, Hurt said.

There also are concerns about the quality of the current wheat crop.

“The last crop condition report for the 2010 fall seeded wheat crop indicated that 25 percent of that crop was in poor or very poor condition,” Hurt said. “That raises the question of whether wheat stands will be strong enough to provide good yield opportunities for the 2011 harvest.

“Those producers with wheat in poor condition do have alternatives. They could tear up that wheat crop and plant corn or soybeans this spring. That’s not only an alternative but a very viable alternative economically, especially for those producers in northern Indiana counties where they usually cannot grow double-crop soybeans with a wheat crop.”

Hurt said he isn’t recommending that farmers give up on poor wheat crops but to consider all options before spring planting.

“Wheat is high-priced, but corn and soybeans are very high-priced,” he said. “This leads to the possibility that returns may be higher to tear up existing wheat and plant to single-crop corn or soybeans this spring.”

Wheat acres are up in Ohio, but will high prices of corn and soybeans lead to fewer acres this spring?

The USDA reported that nearly 41 million acres of winter wheat was planted in the United States in the fall, up 10 percent from the year before.

“That is 3.7 million more acres of winter wheat that reduces acres available for crops in much shorter supply such as corn, soybeans and cotton,” Hurt said. “Thus, higher wheat acres intensifies the battle for acres this winter.”

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