Wichita Fewer winter wheat acres have been planted nationwide, a decline led by Kansas, where farmers seeded less of their parched land into wheat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.
Kansas farmers planted 9.9 million acres of hard red winter wheat, down 500,000 acres -- or 5 percent -- from the previous crop.
"We were anticipating something similar to last year's acreage -- given the price, given the farm program," said Eddie Wells, a statistician for Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service. "It surprised us, that is for sure."
Some of the areas showing the biggest declines in the state were hard-hit by drought -- northwest Kansas, west-central Kansas and southwest Kansas.
Nationwide, wheat acres are down 3 percent to 43.5 million acres. Hard red winter wheat accounted for 31 million of those acres, down 4 percent from a year ago.
Acreage declines are reported in the southern Great Plains states, where moisture supplies remain low, the agriculture department said. The Texas High Plains received only 54 percent of normal rainfall between August and October.
While widespread showers in September and October helped improve soil moisture in Kansas, it was still drier than needed for planting. By Nov. 30, KASS was listing topsoil moisture as short to very short in 65 percent of the state.
Declines in planted acreage were most notable in the driest parts of Kansas -- west-central and southwest Kansas both seeded 10 percent fewer acres. In northwest Kansas, planted acreage was down 7 percent.
Kansas, the nation's largest wheat-producing state, saw its wheat acreage peak in 1937, when 17.1 million acres of the crop was planted, Wells said.
Although acreage fluctuates, planted acres have mostly hovered around 10 million acres in Kansas since the 1960s. In 1993, however, the state seeded 12.1 million acres in wheat.
Also on Monday, KASS updated its 2003 crop production figures:
- Corn production totaled 300 million bushels, up 10 million bushels over drought-plagued 2002.
- Milo production in the state totaled 130.5 million bushels, down 4.5 million bushels from a year ago.
- Soybean production totaled 57 million bushels, down 1.38 million bushels.
- Production of hay was 7 million tons, up 35,000 tons from a year ago.