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Kansas Mesonet rolls out Wheat First Hollow Stem tool

New data tool will help wheat growers better time their grazing termination to maximize grain.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

March 29, 2022

3 Min Read
Cows grazing in wheat field
GRAZING WHEAT: Dual-purpose wheat is popular among many farmers and cattlemen in Kansas. The Kansas Mesonet’s new Wheat First Hollow Stem tool will help farmers and grazers time grazing termination to maximize grain production potential.Jennifer M. Latzke

Dual-purpose wheat is a popular tool for farmers and cattle producers to make the most out of a winter wheat crop. But the key is to pull grazing cattle out of that wheat at the first hollow stem growth stage, so that the grain development isn’t damaged.

This spring, the Kansas Mesonet introduced a new tool to help cattle producers and wheat farmers better determine that timing with the Wheat First Hollow Stem tool.

According to Kansas Mesonet, the page tracks the soil temperature at its various stations around the state, and uses that to calculate the wheat growing degree days (GDD) and the path to the first hollow stem occurrence. It tells farmers and cattle producers the probability of first hollow stem occurrence historically and currently for both early- and late-maturing wheat varieties.

Wheat First Hollow Stem tool map

It builds off of a wheat growth model that was developed by Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Mesonet, according to the announcement in the March 18 Agronomy eUpdate. That OSU model used wheat growing conditions tracked in south-central Kansas in the 2016 to 2021 growing seasons.

Dual-purpose wheat

Winter wheat has long been an ideal forage for grazing stocker cattle in the Plains. It’s a way to use the tender, green wheat growth to put on pounds on young cattle before they head to the feedyard.

Some growers will graze out their wheat acres, not intending to have a secondary grain crop. The cutoff point for grazers and farmers is the wheat first hollow stem stage, when there is about a dime’s diameter of hollow stem below the developing grain head in the wheat plant. If that developing grain head is grazed off by cattle, the plant will not produce grain.

New tool

The new tool on the Kansas Mesonet will help farmers:

  • Estimate probability of FHS across the state. Users can change the maps to select either “Early probability” or “late probability,” depending on the maturity of their planted wheat variety — and then can see how that compares at locations around the state.

  • Compare previous years. Users can use the chart tab to see the current year’s data to recent years and the five-year average for each Mesonet location.

  • Statewide stats. The table on the tool lets users view and sort data from around the state and download it to perform their own analysis via the Download tab.

  • Graphics. Users can even download maps in .png format to share with their farming and grazing partners, or on social media.

Find the new Wheat First Hollow Stem Probability tool at bit.ly/mesonetwfhsprob. Learn more at bit.ly/newfhstoolarticle.

Kansas State University Agronomy eUpdate contributed to this article.


About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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