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Cash Market Moves             09/21 11:53

   2020 Spring Wheat Harvest: A Tale of Two Crops

   The 2020 spring wheat crop fared better than the 2019 crop, but yields 
varied on timing of planting.

Mary Kennedy
DTN Basis Analyst

   Spring wheat planting was adversely affected in the spring of 2020, 
especially in eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. Many producers had 
to deal with overly wet field conditions and an unharvested crop that was still 
in the field from 2019. In addition, the frost had not come out of the ground 
in many places by the end of April, further stalling planting. At the end of 
April, North Dakota was at 5% planted versus their average of 18%, and 
Minnesota was at 6% versus their average of 30%.

   Matthew Krueger, who farms in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, said that yields 
were very variable based on planting date and stage of plant. "Our biggest 
impact for the yield loss was a combination of later planting and excessive 
heat (90-plus-degree days) during flag leaf and flowering stage. Yields were 
below average and similar in 2020 to 2019," said Krueger.

   "Harvest this year started on Aug. 15 and finished on Sept. 10, said 
Krueger. "Normally it would take no longer than two weeks, but weather is the 
biggest thing for that. A majority of our wheat came off around 15% moisture as 
we couldn't wait for it to get dried down fully. Like 2019, the crop did seem 
to take a while to dry down on the tail end of harvest. We couldn't seem to get 
the straw to dry down and we were just waiting on that to keep rolling. Our 
falling numbers remained in the 375-plus for the most part, as well as protein 
was above average as well as test weight."

   Tim Dufault, a farmer from Crookston, Minnesota, said: "Spring wheat turned 
out to be so-so. Yield for the Northwest area will probably be just below 
average at around 65 bushels per acre (bpa). In the Crookston area, protein 
will be about a half a point lower than normal, maybe 13.0% to 13.5%. Test 
weight and color are good. The August rain didn't affect us as much as I 
thought it might.

   "There wasn't as much of an issue with falling numbers like last year.  
There was still a pocket from Crookston to Mahnomen that had some fields with 
sub-300 second falling number tests. The region started the year wet, and all 
of northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota had abundant rainfall from 
June into August. So, there were some areas with drowned-out wheat and areas 
where yields lost another 5 to 10 bpa potential."

   Kerry Baldwin, who farms in Hope, North Dakota, said: "The wheat on our poor 
ground ran in the upper 40s for yield. The wheat on our better ground ran in 
the upper 60s. Considering it was planted late, I'm OK with the yields. Test 
weight was good, and the protein was around 16%."

   A shuttle loader in eastern North Dakota told me that the early heat took 
its toll on the crop in his area. He said that yields were disappointing, 
averaging in the mid-60s with a range of 30-90 bpa. "However, the wheat 
averaged 14.7% protein with nice color, and most of it was dark northern spring 
wheat with an average of 360 falling number. Some of the wheat harvested later 
did grade northern spring wheat." He added that the vomitoxin (DON) tests 
showed some presence of DON, but well under 2% with an average of about 1%.

   Darrin Schmidt, who farms in eastern North Dakota, said: "Yield was below 
average overall, with one or two fields that were above average, but everything 
else below. Test weight was low on that field for some reason, possibly due to 
the variety. Quality was good except for a couple fields, with protein higher 
to average and no low protein. There were no falling number issues this year." 
Schmidt added that he heard yields in his area ranged from poor to good.

   Keith Brandt, general manager of Plains Grain and Agronomy LLC in Enderlin, 
North Dakota, said that their spring wheat quality was better this year than 
last. "No vomitoxin issues and only very minor falling number issues, with a 
14.6% protein average and yield average of 55 bpa." 

   Brandt added that, at best, most growers will only break even on wheat this 
year. "This was the least amount of wheat our company has handled at harvest 
due to less acres planted. We are still battling wet field conditions in our 
area. Some of the prevented planting (PP) acres still have not been worked and 
potholes are as full as they have been all season. We are pretty cautious about 
what next spring might bring here. Maybe another big PP year again?"

   In western North Dakota, Allan Klain, who farms northwest of Turtle Lake, 
North Dakota, said: "The early seeded wheat went too long in June without rain 
and was significantly lower in yield than later seeding date wheat. Lighter 
soils showed up too. We went 35 to 75 bpa on yield with 16 protein average."

   Paul Anderson, Coleharbor, North Dakota, said that his wheat quality was 
good and yields were about 55 bpa. "North of Garrison, there is lower protein 
wheat and lots of 55 bpa wheat."

   Matt Undlin, a farmer from Lansford, North Dakota, said his wheat yield was 
75-95 bpa. "The 75-bushel field got hailed on late, and overall, we had perfect 
color and 65-pound test weight."

   North Dakota Wheat Commission, in their weekly crop progress report on Sept. 
16, noted that quality continues to be good on the 2020 spring wheat crop. "The 
spring wheat harvest is nearing completion with the most recent USDA Crop 
Progress report indicating that 92% of the U.S. crop has been harvested, 
similar to the five-year average. The bulk of the harvest season took place 
under good weather conditions, allowing for smooth harvest pace and very few 
quality issues. As we get further into September, temperatures tend to trend 
cooler and harvest days become shorter, so producers appreciated the improved 
harvest situation compared to the extended, troublesome harvest of 2019."


   I spoke with a merchandiser in Montana who told me that this year's spring 
wheat crop had above-average yields across the state and were up on average 
approximately 12-15 bpa. The higher yields, however, produced a 
lower-than-average protein. Montana normally raises a 14-protein spring wheat 
crop, but this year, the protein will average closer to 13% to 13.5% Test 
weight will average 60-61 per bushel and dark hard vitreous (DHV) kernels will 
be in 75-80 range, with falling numbers in the 330-350 range.  A mild growing 
season caused the higher yields, and Montana didn't experience the hot 
temperatures to stress the crop.

   Ryan Wagner, a farmer in Roslyn, South Dakota, said: "We started harvest on 
Aug. 8 and finished up on Aug. 25, but it took longer due to the varied 
maturity because of a stretched out seeding this spring. Pretty much an average 
crop here this year with yield right around the farm actual production history 
(APH), and given that we didn't finish seeding wheat until May 20, we'll take 

   Wagner added that, "After two years of struggling to get harvest complete 
due to wet weather, harvest was a breeze this year with the dry August and we 
have the quality to show for it. We have had no issues with DON or falling 
numbers and just a little bit of ergot but nothing out of the ordinary, with 
test weights consistently in the 62- to 63-pound range. Protein has varied from 
the mid-13s to the upper 14s, which is a little lower than we'd like to see, 
but in general, I'm pleased with our wheat this year."

   Tim Luken, manager Oahe Grain in Onida, said in his area of central South 
Dakota, harvest started around July 15 and ended around Aug. 11. "It was 
finally enjoyable to receive nice-quality grain compared to the last three 
years and we have something to work with this year," said Luken. "Mother Nature 
was finally good to us during harvest even with some rain and fog delays that 
helped the row crops but didn't deteriorate any wheat acres.

   "Yields were very good in the 60- to 85-bushel range. I heard a lot of 70s 
being talked about. The early part of harvest proteins were lower, in the upper 
12% to lower 13%; as harvest progressed, protein increased toward the end to 
upper 13% to lower 15% with our average at 13.9%. Test weight was very good all 
the way through harvest, running 60 to 64 pounds and ending with an average of 
61.5. It will be great to finally have a crop we can market without any 
issues," added Luken.

   U.S Wheat Associates noted in their weekly harvest update that, overall, the 
industry reports that later-planted spring wheat had more favorable yield 
prospects than fields seeded earlier. As of the Sept. 18 harvest report, 
average protein was at 14.5% versus the final 2019 number at 14.4%. Test weight 
was steady at 61.6 pounds, higher than last year's final average, and the 
falling number average is 392 seconds, indicating a sound crop to date. Average 
vitreous kernel content was steady at 64%, making the current average grade of 
the 2020 spring wheat crop a U.S. No. 1 Northern Spring (1 NS).

   Here is a reference to various spring wheat grade factors: 

   Here are the FDA guidelines for allowable vomitoxin: 

   Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

   Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

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