Projected numbers for 2013 cotton planted acres are beginning to assemble, and winter wheat acres play a part in that number. If the wheat crop looks good enough to take to yield, then cotton will have to wait for a rotation until the next year. Jason Woodward, Ph.D. an Extension Plant Pathologist gives us a better idea of what he and other area producers are seeing in the region as far as this year's wheat crop goes.
"In some travels through the Rolling Plains and parts of the southern High Plains we've had the opportunity to look at the wheat crop and kind of get an assessment of how that crop looks and how that might impact the potential for planted acres in cotton," Woodward said. "Overall the High Plains wheat crop is well behind where it needs to be from a historical perspective. As we go further east in parts of the Rolling Plains, I would say that the crop improves dramatically."
Although without rainfall, uncertainty will remain for all crops. But Woodward said that the Rolling Plains have more of a chance for taking their wheat to yield than here at home.
"There's the ability to see wheat in the Rolling Plains go to yield, that could result in a fallow planting where cotton is not planted. I would say from a state wide perspective, the dry land wheat is obviously suffering from the drought conditions we've experienced. Irrigated wheat looks a little better, but again it could sure benefit from some rainfall," Woodward said.
And West Texas is not the only region where the winter wheat crop is suffering. Some of the breadbasket states in the middle part of our country are in worse shape, and even had about 45% of last year's wheat crop assessed as in poor condition.
"Some of the larger areas in the U.S. that are currently being impacted from the drought are those wheat states, up through the Northern Plains, Kansas, all the way up into the Dakotas," Woodward said.
If the drought does actually result in a U.S. shortage of wheat, Woodward said that prices could see big changes.
"I think if we look at the economics behind wheat and grain production from a world perspective, demand is always going to be there because of the use of wheat in a food system," Woodward said. "If there's a shortage in the High Plains and the Rolling Plains and the northern Great Plains, I think there's the possibility that we'll see wheat prices continue to stay high and possibly increase substantially in some cases."
Projected weather patterns and rainfall for late spring through summer will still affect decisions on irrigated wheat management, which also ultimately affects cotton planting.