UNITED STATES (7 February)
The winter wheat area for the 2005 harvest is officially estimated at 16.8 million hectares, 4 percent down from the previous year’s area. The bulk of the reduction is in the Soft Red Winter wheat area, which declined by 19 percent, to the smallest area on record, mostly because of adverse wet weather at planting time. The Hard Red Winter wheat area is down by just 1 percent. Conditions for crops have been generally favourable so far. Cold temperatures have prevailed in the northern Great Plains but crops there are protected by a good cover of snow. By contrast, in the central and southern plains, milder temperatures have reduced snowcover and reduced winter hardiness of dormant crops leaving them somewhat more vulnerable should very low temperatures return. At this stage, with little change expected in the spring wheat area and assuming a normal rate of winterkill, the aggregate wheat area for the 2005 harvest is expected to decline from the previous year. If yields are about the average of the past five years then the aggregate output could also be expected to decline somewhat from the 58.7 million tonnes crop in 2004.