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Rising acres

03/21/2011 @ 10:41am

Winter wheat is gaining acres as Northern Plains growers assess their 2008 options.

At press time, the survey of seeded acres had not been completed in North Dakota. But some speculate that winter wheat acres jumped 50% to 100% from a year ago, says Jim Peterson, North Dakota Wheat Commission marketing director. 

“In Montana, winter wheat acres are going to be up quite strong,” he says. “The market will need to ensure it’s got a pretty attractive spring wheat price next spring to help pull back some of those spring wheat acres from other crops.”

In the tristate area of Minnesota, North and South Dakota, USDA reports show growers had a strong interest in producing more winter wheat for 2007. Harvested acres and yields both increased by about 80%.

South Dakota harvested acres increased to 1,980,000 from 1,150,000 a year earlier. North Dakota harvested acres shot up to 445,000 from 180,000 in 2006. Even Minnesota increased – acres grew to 60,000 from 45,000 a year earlier.

Based on fall seeding, it appeared that North Dakota growers had seeded another increase that will likely rival the previous record of 750,000 acres, says Peterson.

Winter wheat yields are up 

In the Northern Plains, winter wheat yields are looking better every year, as compared to spring wheat.

For instance, the 2007 North Dakota State University trials at Lisbon saw spring wheat averaging 61 bushels per acre as compared to 79 bushels per acre for winter wheat. The North Dakota average yield for 2007 winter wheat was 50 bushels per acre, up by 6 bushels from 2006, and 14 bushels above the 2007 spring wheat average.

Inputs are similar for winter wheat. The timing for field operations is favorable. Plus, markets this past year paid just as much or more per bushel.

“The northern winter wheat crop was being pulled hard into some of those markets traditionally supplied by Kansas and Oklahoma because they had an April freeze and a disappointing crop,” Peterson says. “Historically, spring wheat has held a pretty good premium to winter wheat. But last year our winter wheat price, at times, was at a slight premium to spring wheat.”

September markets gave winter wheat a premium of 20¢ to 30¢ a bushel across Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Promising in Minnesota, too

Winter wheat even has a good toehold in Minnesota. “It’s still dwarfed by spring wheat, but we’ve seen a steady uptake in acres here,” says Jochum Wiersma, University of Minnesota Extension agronomist.

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