July 26, 2018 / 4:15 AM / a year ago

U.S. tour again finds below-average North Dakota wheat prospects

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. (Reuters) - Spring wheat yield prospects in northern North Dakota are better than a year ago but lag the five-year average, scouts on the second day of an annual U.S. crop tour said on Wednesday.

North Dakota is the top U.S. producer of hard red spring wheat, a high-quality grain used to make artisanal breads, pizza dough and bagels. Spring wheat, representing roughly a quarter of total U.S. wheat output, is also blended with lesser grades of wheat to improve flour quality.

High-quality milling wheat is in demand globally following a reduced U.S. winter crop and as dry weather cut into yield potential for the grain in Europe and Russia.

U.S. wheat futures markets <0#W:> <0#KW:> <0#1MWE:> surged by 5 to 6 percent Wednesday on concerns about crop shortfalls in key production areas around the world. [GRA/]

In North Dakota, on the second day of a three-day tour the Wheat Quality Council scouted 135 hard red spring wheat fields and calculated an average yield of 41.3 bushels per acre (bpa). The figure compares with the tour’s 2017 second-day yield forecast of 35.8 bpa and a five-year average of 44.7 bpa.

Scouts sampled a total of 148 fields on Wednesday between Bismarck and Devils Lake, North Dakota, including 13 fields of durum wheat, which is used for pasta. The average durum yield was 39.2 bpa, compared with 34.4 in 2017 and the prior five-year average of 39.3 bpa.

“We are seeing that variability that everybody was seeing yesterday,” said Dave Green, executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council, which organizes the tour.

The tour on Tuesday projected an average spring wheat yield for southern North Dakota fields at 38.9 bpa, below the tour’s five-year average for its first day of 44.7 bpa.

The tour’s findings contrasted with the latest forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which projected North Dakota’s spring wheat yield at a record-tying 48.0 bpa.

Hot weather may have reduced the crop’s potential, scouts and local producers said.

“When it got so hot in May, that’s what hurt us,” said David Clough, a farmer from Fessenden, N.D.

“It’s still going to be a good crop, but it’s just not going to be what everybody was hoping for,” Clough said.

The tour is scheduled to release its final yield estimates on Thursday after sampling fields in northeast North Dakota and adjacent areas of Minnesota.

Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Leslie Adler and Tom Hogue

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