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Texas wheat fairing well despite rain-delayed harvest

Though shaping up to be a great Texas wheat crop, continued rainfall is putting harvest efforts behind schedule. Producers should be mindful of several potential issues when things do dry out, according to one Texas Cooperative Extension expert.

"This time last year, 86 percent of the crop had been harvested," said Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Extension state small grains specialist. "This year, only 45 percent of the Texas wheat crop has been harvested. Overall, statewide the crop is in good shape."

Extension wheat experts and agriculture agents at a Blacklands strategy meeting in Waco highlighted various topics.

Seed quality is one topic. Many wheat farmers save seed from one year to the next. However, weeks of continued rainfall could create some seed quality issues, Morgan said.

Pre-harvest sprouting can cause some marketing issues and could cause producers to second guess about saving seed, he said.

"As the wheat seed is exposed to prolonged damp conditions after maturation, seed quality goes down. When you have lower seed quality, you have lower stand counts," Morgan said.

As a result, seed availability could become an issue in the Blacklands this year, he said.

"Remember the Plant Variety Protection Act, which means a farmer can save seed, but can't sell seed of a protected variety," Morgan said.

In turn, seed quality affects forage and grain yields: Producers who planted wheat as a forage crop in the past may have opted for cheaper seed, but likely decreased their forage yields.

"In the past, if you thought you were going to plant wheat for forages, you'd go out and buy the cheapest seed and throw it out, there's likely going to be a big yield difference, especially on the forage yields, " Morgan said. "Either save or purchase good quality seed because it is going to make a difference in terms of yields."

With all of the wet weather in the current crop, "good seed quality is what you want to go for," Morgan advised. "It's going to be worth it in the long run."

Pre-harvest sprouting is another factor that will have an impact on marketing and seed quality, Morgan said.

"The seed quality can be affected even if the root is not exposed," he said. "Conduct a germination test to make sure you have good seed quality and conduct the test about a month or several weeks before you plant. This will insure that seed with good germination is being planted."

"Producers can conduct a germination test at home or send seed samples to a Texas Department of Agriculture seed quality lab, " Morgan said.

With a national move towards biofuels production, Morgan also shared some early experiences on Blacklands canola trials. Plots were harvested in Hill County, but a plot at McGregor was hailed out.

"We wanted to see if we could plant canola in the Blacklands," Morgan said. "It's doable, but harvesting has its challenges because of indeterminate growth of the canola plant."

In many cases, the mature canola bogged the harvester down. Plants were more than 6-foot tall and stems were 2-3 inches in diameter.

"If the biodiesel market takes off, that's why we were looking at (doing this)," he said. "Canola can be used as a food oil and there's more interest in it from farmers. There's some (producers) north of the Red River growing it. The biggest challenge in planting canola is the planting depth. It's a very small seed."

Yield data as well as other research outcomes on the canola trials should soon be available, Morgan said.

Dr. Ron French, Extension plant pathologist in Amarillo, discussed the possible development of black point on wheat.

"It's a black spot on the head of the seed," he said.

Most fungi develop when there is moisture and the recent rainfall could create such a favorable environment, French said.

Another fungus, stinking smut, will often release a fish-like odor, and grain elevators will reject a load if they detect it, he said.

Wheat producers interested in more about the latest in production can visit . A wheat newsletter is also available at the site, offering producers the latest information on research and Extension activities happening throughout the state.

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