N.J. winter wheat yields up as harvest still dropping
As with overall national trends, farming of winter wheat has continued to decline in New Jersey.
Both acreage planted and acreage harvested were lower in 2019 as compared to levels five years earlier.
Market prices, the ability to double crop, and the need for erosion control impact the decisions of farmers to plant and harvest winter wheat, according to agricultural leaders in New Jersey.
While overall acres planted and harvested were lower, average yields of winter wheat grew to their highest level in 2020. “New Jersey growers harvested 1.21 million bushels of wheat in 2020 on 18,000 acres, for an all-time record average yield of 67 bushels per acre,” according to Bruce Eklund, New Jersey State Statistician with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the USDA.
“The second highest yield was 66 bushels per acre in 2019. New Jersey’s first official wheat estimate was for 1866 with an average yield of 13.5 bushels per acre on 130 thousand acres.”
A total 1.206 million bushels of winter wheat were produced in New Jersey in 2020, reported the NASS of the USDA. With an average price of $5.50 per bushel, the total value of production of winter wheat was $6.633 million in 2020.
The seasonal report on wheat stocks nationally was released by the USDA on March 31, 2021. A summary indicated that “All wheat stored in all positions on March 1, 2021, totaled 1.31 billion bushels, down 7 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks are estimated at 284 million bushels, down 16 percent from last March.
Off-farm stocks, at 1.03 billion bushels, are down 4 percent from a year ago. The December 2020 – February 2021 indicated disappearance is 388 million bushels, 9 percent below the same period a year earlier.”
In 2019, according to the report of New Jersey Agricultural Statistics 2019-2020, 19,000 acres of winter wheat were planted.
This was an approximate 30-percent decrease from the amount planted in 2015. In that year, 27,000 acres of winter wheat were planted in the State. In 2016, 25,000 acres were planted, 23,000 acres in 2017, and 18,000 acres in 2018.
This report, jointly issued by the USDA NASS and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, indicated that 14,000 acres of winter wheat were harvested in New Jersey in 2019. This was a decline from the 20,000 acres harvested in 2015, 21,000 acres in 2016, 17,000 acres in 2017, and 15,000 acres harvested in 2018 acres.
As noted above, the yield was 66 bushels of winter wheat per acre in 2019, a substantial increase from five years earlier when the yield was 50 bushels per acre. In the intervening years, the yields were relatively stable: 64 bushels per acre in 2016, the same in 2017, and 62 bushels per acre in 2017.
Overall production was 924,000 bushels of winter wheat in 2019. This compares to 1 million bushels in 2015, 1.344 million bushels in 2016, 1.088 million bushels in 2017, and 930,000 bushels in 2018.
The seasonal average price per bushel of winter wheat was about $4.95 per bushel in 2019. Pricing remained in a band from $4 to $5 during the previous five years, with pricing at about $4.70 per bushel in 2015, $4.15 in 2016, $4.60 in 2017, and $4.90 per bushel in 2018. Total value of production was $4.574 million in 2019, with production value per acre at $327. In 2015, the overall value of production was $4.7 million, $5.578 million in 2016, $5.005 million in 2017, and $4.447 million in 2018.
“Many growers in New Jersey sell wheat to their chosen grain elevator company at the market price,” stated Douglas Fisher, Secretary of Agriculture of the State of New Jersey. “The wheat is generally taken and processed and can be used in flour and a wide variety of foods.
“In some cases, that same wheat that was harvested in New Jersey is used at New Jersey bakeries and restaurants. Also, after harvest, it is common for producers to bale the wheat stalks to be used for straw that goes to several different sectors of agriculture, such as the equine industry.”
William Bamka, county agent of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Burlington County, said that cost of production is critical when farmers consider planting a commodity grain like winter wheat. As a way to increase revenue, some New Jersey farmers target select niche markets.
“We have some farmers that focus on growing wheat for craft beer distilleries, for example,” said Bamka. “Other farmers focus on growing kosher wheat. Rabbis from New York will visit farms to assure standards so that the wheat can be used to produce kosher products.”
“While weather, and market prices are always a factor, another growing concern is with Canadian Geese as they migrate through the area when the wheat is beginning to grow,” said Fisher. “The geese then eat the wheat, which at that time is generally a few inches out of the ground.”
Bamka also said some farmers are looking at the potential of growing other varieties of wheat where prices can be higher than the general market prices. “Wheat is generally considered a commodity grain in New Jersey,” said Bamka. “We’re looking at the possibilities of growing select varieties of wheat that could be used for products like artisan baked goods as well as other premium-priced items.”
(Editor’s note: Contact Richard McDonough at email@example.com. © 2021 Richard McDonough.)