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Southern, eastern North Dakota spring wheat yields hurt by drought -tour

Credit: REUTERS/DAN KOECK

Spring wheat yields in southern and east central North Dakota are well below average as a severe drought slashed production potential in the country's top producing state, scouts on an annual crop tour said on Tuesday.

By Karl Plume

MANDAN, N.D., July 27 (Reuters) - Spring wheat yields in southern and east central North Dakota are well below average as a severe drought slashed production potential in the country's top producing state, scouts on an annual crop tour said on Tuesday.

Crop scouts calculated an average spring wheat yield at 29.5 bushels per acre (bpa) in 100 field stops on the first day of the Wheat Quality Council's (WQC) annual tour, below the tour's day-one findings in 2019 of 45.6 bpa and below the five-year average of 43.3 bpa. The tour was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Grain traders, millers, bakers and exporters are monitoring results from the tour as drought has thinned the typically high-quality spring wheat crop amid growing concerns about rising global food prices and tightening supplies.

North Dakota is the biggest U.S. producer of spring wheat, used in artisanal breads, pizza dough and bagels. Spring wheat can also be blended with lesser grades of wheat to improve flour quality.

Rains earlier in July offered parts of the state some drought relief, but drier conditions have returned along with severe heat that has deteriorated yield prospects, scouts said.

Nearly 60% is under extreme drought or worse, according to climatologists.

The USDA cut its spring wheat condition rating on Monday to just 9% good to excellent, the worst since 1988.

Wheat plants were found to be shorter than normal due to the drought, which may make it difficult to harvest. Scouts also reported large numbers of crop-eating grasshoppers in many fields.

"I was expecting more fields in the 50-plus bushel yields. They just weren't there," said Jim Peterson, policy and market director at the North Dakota Wheat Commission.

The tour will survey fields in northern portions of the state on Wednesday and northeastern fields on Thursday before releasing its final yield outlook.

(Reporting by Karl Plume in Mandan, North Dakota; editing by Richard Pullin and Chris Reese)

((karl.plume@thomsonreuters.com; +1 313 484 5285; Reuters Messaging: karl.plume.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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