"The Plains' emerging wheat crop was in need of a soaking rain to ensure autumn establishment, in part due to lingering subsoil moisture deficits," National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) reporters said last week. "In addition, topsoil moisture shortages began to appear again in some areas, particularly across Oklahoma and Kansas."

Using those two states as an example, 47% of the topsoil moisture in Kansas is reported as adequate and only 34% of the subsoil moisture. In Oklahoma, only 21% of topsoil moisture was reported as adequate; just a measly 7% of subsoil moisture.

Harvest for some of this year's crops underscores the long-term challenges of 2005-2006. For example, NASS estimates the winter wheat crop down 13% from a year ago; oat production at a record low 93.8 million bu. (18% less than 2005), and barley 15% below last year at 150 million bu.

For the week ending Oct. 3, according to NASS:

  • Corn -- Maturation is at 88% or beyond, the same as last year, but 6% ahead of normal. Maturation was at or head of normal in all states except Indiana. 20% is harvested, which is 5% behind last year and 3% behind the five-year average. 61% is rated Good or better, compared to 55% last year.
  • Soybeans -- 87% of the acreage was at or beyond dropping leaves, 4% behind last year but 3% ahead of the average. Growers have harvested 19% of the crop, compared to 33% at this time last year and 26% for the average. 62% is rated Good or better; 56% was at the same time last year.
  • Winter wheat -- 54% of the crop is sown, 1% more than the same time last year but 2% less than average. Planting was 33% ahead of normal in Oregon, but at or behind par in most other states. 24% of the crop has emerged, the same as last year but 3% the normal pace. Emergence was most advanced in Colorado and Washington at 46% and 44%, respectively.
  • Sorghum -- 89% was at or beyond turning color, 4% behind last year and the normal pace. 60% is mature, compared to 65% last year and 67% for average. 38% has been harvested, compared to 36% last year and 40% for average. 32% is rated Good or better, compared to 49% last year.
  • Pasture -- 30% is rated Good or Excellent, compared to 29% last year. 22% is rated Poor and 18% is ranked Very Poor, compared to 23% and 15% respectively at the same time last year.
  • States with the worst pasture conditions -- at least 40% of the acreage rated poor or worse -- include: Alabama (58%); Arizona (50%); Arkansas (41%); California (80%); Kansas (45%); Mississippi (48%); Missouri (59%); Montana (42%); Nebraska (44%); Nevada (58%); North Dakota (52%); Oklahoma (63%); Oregon (51%); South Dakota (41%); Texas (67%); and Wyoming (65%).
  • States with the lushest pasture conditions -- at least 40% rated good or better -- include: Florida (55%); Illinois (56%); Indiana (67%); Iowa (61%); Kentucky (78%); Maine (85%); Maryland (49%); Michigan (53%); New Mexico (62%); New York (61%); North Carolina (62%); Ohio (72%); Pennsylvania (57%); South Carolina (47%); Tennessee (41%); Utah (48%); Virginia (46%); Washington (40%); West Virginia (60%); and Wisconsin (56%).
-- Wes Ishmael, BEEF Stocker Trends newsletter