The huge 14% dropoff in planted acres – estimated at 37.1 million acres – spreads across virtually every wheat production area, many of which faced wet weather and delayed planting.

Darrell Good, University of Illinois grain marketing economist, says fewer winter wheat acres could be supportive for wheat prices and basis levels in the 2010-2011 marketing year. “However, the decline also points to more acres of spring planted crops,” says Good.

USDA rated the winter wheat crop condition at late last year at 64% good to excellent, virtually the same rating as in late 2008. But acreage numbers are still low. The largest acreage decreases are in Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas. Winter wheat seeded in Kansas is down 700,000 acres, 8% below 2009 and the lowest planted acres since 1957.

Montana is down 550,000 acres, 22% below 2009 and the third-largest decrease on record. Winter wheat in Oklahoma is expected to be down 500,000 acres, the lowest acreage since 1971. Acreage in Texas is down 1 million acres, the fourth-largest decrease on record and lowest planted area since 1973.

USDA says the soft red winter (SRW) wheat seeded area is about 5.92 million acres, down 29% from last year. Large acreage decreases from last year occurred in all SRW-growing states due to the late row-crop harvest, heavy rains and wet soil conditions. Record-low acreages are expected in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio. The largest acreage decreases are in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio.

Arkansas acreage is down 230,000 acres, 53% below 2009. Illinois is down 500,000 acres, 59% below last year. Acreage seeded in Missouri is down 360,000 acres, a 46% drop from 2009. Ohio is down 210,000 acres, down 21% from 2009.

White winter wheat seeded area totals nearly 3.33 million acres, down 1% from 2009. Planted acreage in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon and Washington) is up from last year. The winter wheat planted area is up 40,000 acres from 2009 in Idaho, up 50,000 in Oregon and unchanged in Washington. Seeding began ahead of normal in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

USDA says durum wheat seedings in Arizona and California for 2010 harvest are estimated at 205,000 acres, down 33% from the 2009 level. Planted acreage is down 35,000 in Arizona and down 65,000 in California. Planting is ongoing in California's San Joaquin and Imperial valleys.

Good says USDA’s projection of large year-ending wheat stocks was negative for near-term price prospects, but that the shortfall in plantings could help markets down the road. "Fundamentally, the large decline in winter wheat seedings offers some opportunity for a recovery in prices during the 2010-2011 marketing year," he says.

"Harvested acreage, particularly of SRW wheat, could be even smaller than implied by the acreage estimates due to poor conditions in some areas. A much smaller harvest in 2010 could allow for a recovery in the SRW wheat basis that has been extremely weak for the past three years."

Good says the 6-million-acre decline in winter wheat seedings, along with additional acreage released from the Conservation Reserve Program, opens the door for large increases in the acreage of spring-planted crops. “While a few more corn and cotton acres may be needed to accommodate the expected rate of consumption in 2010-2011, a large South American harvest implies no need for more soybean acreage,” he says. “Favorable growing conditions, then, could result in a surplus of one or more crops in 2010.”