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Wheat approaches critical stages

Mississippi's wheat is approaching a critical, yield-producing stage despite weather challenges on the front end of the growing season. Erick Larson, small grains specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said growers planted a lot less wheat than expected this year because of two main factors.

“The major factor in reduced wheat acres was the weather last fall. We had abnormally high rainfall from September through November. That prevented farmers from getting into the fields and planting in a timely fashion,” Larson said. Wheat had good growing conditions in March, enabling it to compensate somewhat for the late start. The crop is still slightly behind normal.

Most of the state's crop will be headed by the middle of April.

Alan Henn, a Mississippi Extension plant pathologist, said diseases will not become an issue until wheat reaches the flag-leaf and heading stage. At that time, growers will need to watch for powdery mildew and rust.

“Hopefully, growers chose resistant varieties. Since we continue with mostly dry conditions, we could see more barley yellow dwarf virus, which is spread by aphids. If that occurs, growers will see patches of declining plants, especially around the field margins and tree lines. There is not anything you can do about that virus,” Henn said.

Linda Breazeale writes for MSU Ag Communications.

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