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Farmers plant fewer acres to wheat this season

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Kansas farmers planted a slightly smaller wheat crop this fall, and even that is struggling to survive.

Nearly 9.3 million acres of wheat was planted this fall, according to estimates released Friday by Kansas Agricultural Statistics, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's nearly 200,000 fewer acres than were planted for the 2012 crop.

Total crop production in 2012 was estimated at 382.2 million bushels, the largest crop since 2003.

Nationally, nearly 41.8 million acres were planted, up slightly from last year. Hard red winter wheat, the type planted in Kansas, makes up the lion's share of the total wheat planted.

Of the Kansas crop planted, only approximately 29 percent is rated as either good or excellent. That's sharply less than 47 percent at this time last year.

That's all a result of an ongoing drought, which has topsoil moisture at 76 percent very short and only 24 percent adequate.

In addition to announcing the number of acres planted, KAS also reported final harvest estimates for other crops.

Corn production ended at 379.2 million bushels, down slightly from the November forecast and 11 percent less than the 2011 crop.

It was the smallest crop since 2006.

Yields were the lowest since 1983, averaging only 96 bushels per acre. That's up by 5 bushels from the November forecast, but 11 bushels less than what was harvested in 2011.

Grain sorghum production ended at 81.9 million bushels, slightly smaller than estimated in November. It's the smallest crop since 1956, with average yields of just 39 bushels per acre.

Soybean production ended at 83.8 million bushels, also the smallest since 2003. Yield was just 22 bushels per acre.