Compared to corps running late in maturity last fall, the wheat crop planted last fall appears to be running about one week ahead of schedule. That's the word from herb Ohm, long-time wheat breeder and interim head of the Purdue University Agronomy Department .The normal to early maturity date appears to be coming despite most of the wheat being planted late last fall.
In fact, the other part of the story was that a lot of intended wheat acreage was not planted. Even in southwest Indiana, Chuck Mansfield, Purdue agronomist based there, noted late last fall that wheat acreage was way down. Coupled with low prices, disease problems in the crop harvested in '09 and a late, wet fall in '09, many chose not to plant wheat, even in areas where wheat and doublecrop soybeans are normally an attractive rotation choice.
"The wheat looks good but is short," Ohm says. "The late seeding together with cool and wet early spring weather caused wheat to have little growth by mid-April. Then, we had warmer than normal weather, and that together with the long days by the last half of April caused wheat to rapidly develop to the heading growth stage, resulting in unusually short plant height."
Disease could still set in, but so far Ohm hasn't seen signs of a problem. Based on conditions last week, he projected that wheat yields throughout the state could be above average due to tillering.
If you're going to apply a fungicide, you need to be checking now because wheat is flowering. It may already be too late to apply one effectively in southern Indiana. The fungicide application would be considered if you thought it was necessary to control Fusarium head blight.
Those farmers that do have wheat out in areas where double-crop soybeans are a possibility might want to consider harvesting wheat wet, say at 18 to 20% moisture, to get a crop of soybeans in the ground, Ohm suggests. Of course, it would mean drying the wheat. Bu the days gained on soybeans could offset drying costs, he notes.
It remains to be seen what fewer wheat acreage and shorter wheat will do for straw supplied for next year. At least one farmer who has a considerable number of small bales in the barn is choosing to keep them there for the moment.