Not to jinx Minnesota wheat farmers ...
No, it's not a typo. A whopping 41 percent of Minnesota spring wheat is in excellent condition, with another 44 percent in good shape, according to the weekly crop progress report released Monday by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
The overall 85 percent in good or excellent condition really didn't surprise me -- everything I've heard and seen first-hand points to a fine wheat crop in northwest Minnesota, where wheat in the state is concentrated-- but having so much of the crop rated excellent is a little amazing; I'd have thought the "excellent" number would be much lower and the "good" number would be much higher.
A few more statistics to consider: At this time a year ago, NASS reported that 61 percent wheat of Minnesota was in good shape, with 24 percent rated excellent. Given that -- more rated excellent this year -- it's fair to ask whether Minnesota could enjoy even better wheat yields this year than in 2017. And last year was terrific:wheat farmers in the state had a record yield of 67 bushels per acre.
I asked David Torgerson, the veteran executive director of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, to assess this year's crop. His answer:
"This looks to be similar (to 2017). The question is: Is this year better than last year? It's hard to believe we could have two back-to-back record-yielding crops," he says.
This year generally has brought wetter, warmer conditions than 2017 did, he notes.
"I tend to think Minnesota wheat production does better when we have cooler, dryer weather. If I had to guess, the heat and wind/hail storms and excess rain in some areas, along with more disease pressure, this year, will keep statewide yields from being any better than last year," he says.
Torgerson wisely takes the doesn't-count-your-bushels-before-they're-in-the-bin approach.
"We have at least a month before wheat harvest and a lot can happen. We hope growers can get this year’s crop in the bin and it turns out as good or better than last year; time will tell," he says.
Well, I'm not superstitious. Minnesota wheat farmers aren't, either. So writing now about the good-looking crop and the possibility of record yields certainly isn't going to jinx the crop.
I've already planned at least one trip to visit a northwest Minnesota wheat farmer during harvest, and may be making more. I'll let you know what I learn.
You can read the latest NASS report here.