Many farmers have concerns that the severe winter of 2006-07 could wreak havoc with the 2007 wheat crop. As the wheat breaks dormancy this spring, however, Kansas State University Research and Extension agronomist Jim Shroyer, believes the crop is in good shape.
"Don't make any snap judgments. Just because the wheat was under ice, doesn't mean it is dead," Shroyer says.
Shroyer says farmers will know if wheat has been adversely affected by weather, as areas of fields will not break dormancy as quickly as other areas. The difference will be noticeable, as the cool winter, combined with ample moisture, should lead to quick and ample growth.
"Look for areas that aren't greening up as quickly as others," Shroyer says. "I don't envision many problems with spring greenup, other than perhaps drowning from excess snowmelt."
Cool temperatures in early March give way to warmer weather by the end of the month and thus, lots of growth. However, if the weather stays abnormally cool, disease pressures could soon mount.
"Once the plants get a couple of nodes on the leaves and it canopies, you may start seeing powdery mildew. You'll also hear if rust is a problem in the Southern Plains and could be heading to Kansas," Shroyer says.
This could be a bountiful year for wheat producers, the way prices and moisture are shaping up, Shroyer says. As such, a fungicide application could be beneficial.
"With the moisture we've had, with the potential diseases coming, varieties that are susceptible to disease may very well respond to a fungicide," he explains. "With the price and yield potential, it could very well pay."
Fungicides, Shroyer says, could be part of an overall plant health package. "Plan for it in your budget, but use it only when you have to," he explains. "Monitor the crop, wait until you see symptoms and if you see them, apply."
Wheat producers who no-till, particularly in wheat stubble, are likely to see more benefit than conventional till producers.
While wheat growers will eventually benefit from winter moisture, wet fields have plagued farmers trying to topdress their wheat. "If it stays cool, the window [to topdress] stays open a little longer," Shroyer says. "The last several years we've had warm winters and early springs and the wheat has taken off more quickly. I don't' see it greening up as quickly this spring."
Topdressing should occur before jointing to get the biggest bang for the buck. "You can topdress after jointing – wheat will respond – but head size has already been determined," he says.
If fields cannot be topdressed during the day, Shroyer says farmers can put nitrogen fertilizer on at night if the ground is frozen, but only if the frost breaks during the day. "If the ground is frozen solid and it rains and fertilizer runs off the field, you've wasted money," he says.