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Michigan grower sees drought-induced wheat yield dip

Field Snapshot: Recent rain helps tide over corn and soybeans — for now.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

June 21, 2023

3 Min Read
 Brad Kamprath in his soft red winter wheat field in southeast Michigan
DRY SPRING: Lack of rain during pollination is expected to cut into wheat yields by 30% or more in many parts of Michigan. Courtesy of Brad Kamprath

The hot and dry weather during pollination has dented Brad Kamprath’s soft red winter wheat yields by up to 30% versus last year, according to the southeast Michigan farmer.

He sprayed the fungicide Miravis Ace at flowering. “That was a big question mark, whether to spray or not because it was so dry,” he says. “We didn't know if it was going to pay or not, but my theory was, if I can keep that plant healthy longer, it might better withstand the dryness. In a couple weeks, my test strip will tell me if it paid or not.”

In one of his newly rented fields, wheat streak mosaic virus took about 5% of yields. “It’s the only field I had it in, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Kamprath says, adding that seed was drilled into a no-till field.

“This fungus is not real prevalent in Michigan, and last year and this year are really the first we’re seeing it. It’s not been an issue in this area.”

Wheat specialists have told him it may be linked to volunteer wheat helping to carry it or residue holding it.

Kamprath expects to harvest wheat around July 1, a good week earlier than normal. He will follow it with a cover crop of either rye or oats.

Plantings started May 10 for Kamprath, who farms 380 acres of corn, 375 acres of soybeans, 270 acres of wheat and 20 acres of hay just west of Monroe, Mich. They finished May 23, about a week ahead of the five-year average on the Ida, Mich., farm he works with his father, Richard.

The area received about three-quarters of an inch of rain June 12-13, a little too late to offer much help for wheat.

“But it really was a lifesaver for corn and soybeans, and we’re hoping there’s more coming,” he says.

Kamprath is getting ready to apply nitrogen to corn. “I waited longer than some because we Y-drop everything,” he adds.

As of June 14, he reports that both corn and soybeans are up and look “pretty decent.” Stands are a bit uneven because of the dry weather across most of Michigan, “but all in all, it looks good, but if we hadn’t gotten a rain a couple of days ago, that probably wouldn’t be the case,” Kamprath says. “That little rain helped pull it out.”

He delayed spraying herbicides — Triple Flex, Atrazine and Roundup — on his corn crop. “I drug my feet a bit because it was so dry and rain wasn’t predicted,” he explains, while noting he started spraying the week of June 5 and planned to finish June 14.

Overall, he’s quite happy with his corn and soybean stands. “A few growers have had to replant some soybeans because the bean sprouted but then died without moisture,” Kamprath says.

“I’m pretty optimistic, but the weather is always the unknown. I don’t watch the weather forecasts from the first of December until about the first April because I’m tired of checking it twice or more a day between April and December.”

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

Jennifer was hired as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, and in 2015, she began serving a dual role as editor of Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer. Both those publications are now online only, while the print version is American Agriculturist, which covers Michigan, Ohio, the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic. She is the co-editor with Chris Torres.

Prior to joining Farm Progress, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan, and as director of communications with the Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her resume.

She has been a member of American Agricultural Editors’ Association (now Agricultural Communicators Network) since 2003. She has won numerous writing and photography awards through that organization, which named her a Master Writer in 2006 and Writer of Merit in 2017.

She is a board member for the Michigan 4-H Foundation, Clinton County Conservation District and Barn Believers.

Jennifer and her husband, Chris, live in St. Johns, Mich., and collectively have five grown children and four grandchildren.

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