Extreme drought conditions that plagued large swaths of the American breadbasket this growing season are forcing wheat farmers to make tough harvest decisions. This is concerning, but all is not lost. It is worth monitoring the harvest, as the most-affected states in the Southern Plains provide the majority of wheat that goes directly to domestic and export markets.
Significant expected rates of wheat abandonment and lower yield
Preliminary statistics from USDA/NASS on U.S. winter wheat predict an abandonment rate of 32.6%, the highest since 1917, when the U.S. was engaged in World War I. Both 2002 and 2022 saw similarly high rates of abandonment at 28.8% and 29.5%, respectively.
Bryce Anderson, agriculture meteorologist emeritus, puts the significance of these numbers into perspective in a recent Progressive Farmer article:
“The USDA estimate suggests that almost 1 out of every 3 acres of winter wheat seeded in the fall of 2022 will be abandoned, likely because of drought. This expected abandonment of almost one-third of seeded acreage surpasses not only the big Southern Plains drought year of 1951 but also exceeds the winter wheat abandonment rate during the Dust Bowl drought years of the 1930s.”
Just because a significant acreage is set to be “abandoned,” it should be noted this does NOT mean it is sitting fallow. Some farmers are killing off their poor performing wheat fields and, instead,