Farm and Ranch
Wheat acres could rise slightly as prices trend upward; winter moisture expected
By Adam Russell, Texas A&M
Sep 14, 2018
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College Station, Texas -- Texas wheat producers may increase planted acres slightly as the forecast for moisture through winter and market trends improve outlook, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

Dr. Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension small grains and oilseed specialist, College Station, said he anticipates a “bump” in statewide wheat acres this season. Texas wheat acres have been exceptionally low, around 4.5 million acres, he said. But they could settle between 4.7 million to 5 million acres based on recent price trends.

“Prices crept up in June and August,” Neely said. “They’ve fallen since, but prices are higher than they were last year, and the rally may be enough to entice growers, especially on acres that haven’t had wheat in their rotation in a while.”

Neely said dryland acres will be subject to Mother Nature because subsoil levels in predominant wheat growing regions – High Plains and Rolling Plains – are not at levels that would sustain dryland wheat fields. Dryland wheat makes up a large percentage of the acres in the Panhandle and South High Plains.

He is cautiously optimistic about rain because trends indicate an El Nino weather pattern this winter, which typically means more moisture.

“There’s a fairly strong trend that we’ll have more moisture this winter,” he said. “If we don’t, there’s not much moisture in reserve for wheat.”

Texas wheat acres may increase as price trends and weather outlooks improve. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo, said producers in the High Plains are beginning to plant winter wheat pastures for grazing and that wheat plantings should begin in earnest soon although many producers are still waiting on moisture.

Bell said scattered rains delivered around 1 inch of moisture and created good planting conditions for some wheat producers. Forecasts were calling for chances of rain and temperatures in the 80s, which will minimize rapid drying of soil and create ideal conditions for wheat drilling.

However, in some areas there is not any subsoil moisture, which is a concern because there may be sufficient soil moisture to germinate wheat, but without continued precipitation it may run out of moisture and die, she said.

“Many irrigated producers who planned to have wheat pastures ready for grazing by early fall have already planted,” she said. “There are also producers who plant wheat as late as December, after corn and cotton harvest, but the bulk of planting is in September and October. Producers are still watching the weather and markets, so we don’t know just yet what producers are considering with their acres.”

Bell said planted wheat acreage in the region would likely be steady following reductions in recent years. She doesn’t expect a significant decrease in acres planted, especially for grazing.

“Winter wheat is very important for the cattle industry in this region,” she said. “Producers may graze their fields and watch the market before deciding they want to take it to grain.

“It appears that wheat planting is slower than in previous years due to the persistent drought across much of the region,” she said. “However, wheat pasture is in high demand for stocker cattle, and I anticipate seeing wheat planting get busy in the next few weeks if the forecast holds for timely precipitation.”