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Troubled High Plains’ wheat crop

This year was a disappointment for most wheat farmers in the Texas Panhandle, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

Drought in the fall and through most of the winter and early spring resulted in many dryland fields being plowed up, said Dr. Brent Bean, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Amarillo.

“Conditions were somewhat better north of Amarillo, but good dryland fields were still hard to find,” he said. “Even irrigated wheat suffered due to a lack of fall and winter precipitation.

“And our old nemesis, the Russian wheat aphid, also played a major role in reducing wheat yield potential throughout the area," Bean said. "This was probably the worst year for Russian wheat aphid in the last 20 years.”

The final weather issue in many fields was damage caused by a late freeze in April, he said. Diseases in general were not a major problem in 2009, but wheat streak mosaic and triticum mosaic infection were significant in a few fields.

Bean said lack of adequate fertilization also tended to hurt wheat yield potential, especially in irrigated fields. Nitrogen deficiency symptoms were observed in the fall and early winter in many fields.

In many cases, compost had been applied prior to planting, he said. But the nitrogen released from the compost was not adequate to prevent nitrogen deficiency in the wheat crop. It was also observed, especially in wheat no-tilled behind corn, that fields were deficient in phosphorus.

“Those fields where phosphorus was applied at planting had a much better stand of wheat than in similar fields where no phosphorus was applied,” Bean said. “Care should be taken when planting late and under no-till conditions that adequate phosphorus is present.”

Bean said variety trials were planted and harvested at five locations around the Texas Panhandle and at the New Mexico State University station near Clovis, N.M. The yield trials are partially funded by the Texas Wheat Producers Board through grower check-off funds.

Four irrigated varieties clearly stood out in this year’s trials. Hatcher, Bill Brown, TAM 111 and Dumas averaged more than 58 bushels per acre across the five locations, with Hatcher averaging 69.8 bushels per acre.

Both Hatcher and Bill Brown have Russian wheat aphid resistance, which likely contributed to these two varieties topping the trial, Bean said. This is the first year Bill Brown has been in the Panhandle trials.

“Not only did these four varieties have the highest yield when averaged across locations, but were in the top 25 percent in yield in four of the five sites,” he said.

Other varieties that averaged in the top 25 percent were Billings, T81, Duster, TAM 203, Endurance, and the experimentals TX02A252 and OK04525. Billings was released this year by Oklahoma State University, and a decision is expected soon to release the Texas AgriLife Research experimental TX02A252, which yielded well in last year’s trial.

Of the nine dryland trials planted, only five were harvested, Bean said. The others were abandoned due to poor stand establishment, drought and high variability within a trial site.

In the five trials reported, the top five varieties were easily identified as Hatcher, TAM 112, TAM 111, TX02A0252 and Bill Brown.

“Hatcher has proven itself in previous years as a good dryland variety,” he said. “It performed exceptionally well this year, averaging almost five bushels more than its nearest competitor, likely because of its Russian wheat aphid resistance.”

Hatcher and Bill Brown were the only two varieties in the dryland trials with Russian wheat aphid resistance, Bean said. Similar to the irrigated trials, Endurance and Dumas also yielded in the top 25 percent at most of the locations.

“Varieties recommended here are those that have consistently performed well over at least a three-year period,” he said. “Those varieties that perform well under full irrigation also tend be the same varieties that yield well under dryland (conditions). In our environment, even those varieties grown under full irrigation are going to be subject to heat stress and likely some periods of drought.”

Yield data from previous years, variety descriptions, two- and three-year averages by location, and other information can be found at: under Publications.

TAGS: Corn
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