By JACK WEATHERLY
Perhaps a fitting culmination to an erratic weather pattern is that Mississippi’s winter wheat yield is expected to rise by double digits.
Whether the state would even see a crop at all hinged on a drought that pushed planting to late in 2016.
A crop was planted, even though it was smaller than the previous year by about 10 percent.
However, an unusually dry early spring may have boosted the crop, said Dr. Brian Williams, agricultural economist for the MSU Extension Service, who added that the harvest began only last week.
Consequently, the forecast for this season’s crop is 2.7 million bushels, compared with the previous year’s 2.4 million, according to the USDA’s June 9 report.
That’s a yield of 60 bushels per acre, compared with the 2015-2016 yield of 48 bushels.
Dr. Erick Larson, corn and wheat specialist with the extension service, was quoted earlier in the year that “even though the wheat was planted very late, the warm winter allowed to grow rapidly. It caught up and passed normal growth growth points on the calendar.”
Still Larson expressed skepticism on Tuesday that the forecast will be borne out. The small crop is more vulnerable to swings in the weather.
July wheat futures were $4.44 per bushel on Tuesday, compared with the peak of 2012 when they reached $8.80 to $8.90. “We’ve had a steady downward trend since then,” Williams said.
Winter wheat, a small member of the Mississippi row crop family, offers a safety net because its winter-to-spring growing season and early harvest allow farmers to “double-crop” and diversify their efforts.