WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The first acreage estimate of the growing season shows U.S. farmers planted fewer acres of winter wheat for harvest this year, according to a report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service released Friday.
The agency reported that the 41.9 million planted acres are down 2 percent overall from last year. Seeding began in August for the 2014 winter wheat crop, which is harvested in late spring and early summer across the nation.
But plantings of hard red winter wheat, the type primarily used to make bread, were estimated to be up 2 percent at 30.1 million acres.
Significantly more hard red wheat acres were seeded in Colorado, Montana and North Dakota, the agency reported. Those helped offset large acreage decreases in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Utah had a record low acreage, while North Dakota seeded a record high number of wheat acres.
"Planting conditions probably played into that," said Justin Gilpin, executive director for the industry group Kansas Wheat. "But it also will be interesting because of the cold streak we had to see how some of that increased acreage out north will come through, whether it will be impacted by those cold temperatures or not."
Also probably driving the increased plantings of hard red winter wheat is the fact that during the fall it had been trading at equal the value of spring wheat. Typically spring wheat, which is higher in protein and has stronger gluton content favored for multi-grain artisan breads, fetches higher prices than hard red winter wheat, Gilpin said.
Kansas, the nation's largest winter wheat producer, grows the hard red winter wheat. Kansas growers planted 8.8 million acres, down 7 percent from a year ago when 9.5 million acres were planted.
Gilpin attributed the lower wheat acreages in Kansas in part to typically double-cropped acres not being planted in the central and eastern parts of the state. This year's soybean harvest came off later in the fall, so there wasn't enough time to immediately seed a winter wheat crop behind it. Also, some farmers may have decided to rotate those acres with another spring-planted crop such as corn.
Plantings of other winter wheat types include:
— Soft red winter wheat seeded on about 8.44 million acres is down 16 percent from a year ago. Acres were expected to be down in all soft red growing states, with significant decreases estimated in Arkansas and Mississippi.
— White winter wheat plantings are estimated at 3.39 million acres, down 3 percent from 2013. Acreages in the Pacific Northwest states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington are down from a year ago.
— Plantings of durum wheat, used to make pasta, are estimated at 145,000 acres in Arizona and California. That estimate is down 6 percent from last year.