Winter wheat yields expected to be down 13 percent

farm-droughtVirginia growers are expecting to harvest less winter wheat this year, though the crop appears to be in good shape.

Winter wheat is planted in winter and harvested generally during June in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported June 10 that this year’s harvest is expected to be 15.3 million bushels, a 13 percent decrease from 2014, with an average yield of 68 bushels per acre. That estimate was based on the 4 percent decrease in yield due to weather in May, and on crop conditions in June.

“The first week is very telling of how the crop quality will be,” said Robert Harper, grain manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “So far this season it’s been decent or good quality across the state.”

Virginia-grown wheat is milled for flour and poultry and livestock feed.

Harper noted that rain has a negative impact on wheat that is ripe and ready for harvest. After frequent June rainstorms, he said, “farmers have a challenging time getting out in the fields to harvest the wheat that’s ripe, due to the spotting rain. The longer the wheat stays in the field, the lesser-quality it becomes, and it is unable to be used for milling purposes.”

At the start of June, 78 percent of the winter wheat crop was rated in good to excellent condition, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Generally speaking, “wheat prices are lower this year due to burdensome supplies domestically and internationally,” Harper said. Additionally, “the strength of the U.S. dollar has made American wheat more expensive” overseas.

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