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Wheat harvest – yields good, test weights down

While producers in the northern reaches of the Mid-South are cutting good wheat yields, there are numerous reports of low test weights.

After drenching rains in late May and early June, Mid-South producers finally got to do what they’ve been wanting to do for weeks – harvest their wheat crops. While yields have been surprisingly good, test weights have disappointed in some areas, particularly for growers in west Tennessee.

“We definitely have problems (with test weights) here in Weakley County,” said Jeff Lannom, Extension director for the county. “But the problem has varied widely. Some producers have had little to no dockage for test weight, while others have taken it on the chin. It has hit some producers hard, with as much as $3 per bushel dock at the grain buying stations. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between whether a fungicide was used to suppress head scab or not.”

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Heather Kelly, Extension plant pathologist at the University of Tennessee says low test weights have been reported in west Tennessee, Illinois and Kentucky. “The problems stem from rain that fell on the crop just as it reached maturity. It just really hurt the quality of the wheat.”

“How widespread it is hard to gauge,” said Brownsville, Tenn., producer Richard Jameson who said 10 days of rainy, cloudy, mild days from June 2 to June 12 is probably to blame. “That would have affected test weight and quality.”

Somerville, Tenn., farmer Bob Walker said he “had a little trouble with low test weight on some of his wheat, but not all of it.”

Arkansas Extension wheat and feed grains specialist Jason Kelley has heard reports of low test weights in wheat, but yields have been good to excellent. “Yields in the southern in the southern part of the state are better than yields in the northern part of the state. There are some isolated instances in in south Arkansas where we’ve had probably the highest yields we’ve ever had. Those fields were managed for 100 bushels and many went over 100 bushels.

“In the central Arkansas to northeast Arkansas region, there’s a lot of 50-bushel to 80-bushel wheat, which considering everything, is not too bad.”

Kelley said test weights “have been a little bit disappointing though. The harvest has dragged out between rains. And of course every time it rains, the test weights drop a little bit more. At the beginning of harvest we had some test weights in south Arkansas of over 60. But overall the yields have been there. I think we will still end up with a good state average yield.”

 “Overall I think wheat yields a lot better than what people expected, particularly with the very cold temperatures we had during the late winter,” said Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension specialist, grain crops. “The rainfall that we had shortly after June 1 that lasted until June 15 in some areas, caught a lot of the wheat that was just approaching maturity or harvest moisture.”

Larson said the rains “probably did reduce the test weight somewhat, but overall, we’re thankful and a little bit surprised, that it didn’t cause some other issues. Wheat dodged a bullet in that we didn’t have severe quality problems associated with either kernels sprouting or extremely low test weights.”

Larson said test weights in Mississippi “really aren’t that far out of normal. Obviously you would like to have test weights up around 60 pounds every year, but that rarely happens. Rainfall does reduce test weight after it reaches harvest maturity.”

According to USDA, as of June 22, 62 percent of the Arkansas wheat crop had been harvested, compared to a 5-year average of 88 percent. Seventy-five percent of Mississippi’s wheat crop had been harvested by that date, compared to a 5-year average of 96 percent. In Tennessee, only 33 percent of the state’s wheat crop had been harvested, compared to a 5-year average of 65 percent. Wheat harvest in Louisiana is basically complete.

Corn crop progressing

Many grain producers are also turning attention to the corn crop and weather in the coming weeks. “Overall the Arkansas corn crop looks pretty good,” Kelley said. “One of my concerns is how warm it’s going to get in the next couple of weeks. Recently we’ve had enough rains that probably helped and bought farmers a few days before they had to water.”

Kelley said corn planting “went a little like wheat harvest. It’s been strung out. Some was planted real early, then we had to stop. We planted some more and then we had to stop again. The planting date range is wider than it normally would be.”

Kelley said that recent storms and high winds has caused green snap in corn. “Green snap is when the corn stalk snaps at a node. This can occur anytime, from once the growing point is above the ground to after tassel, but most often occurs when plants have been rapidly growing and the stalks are brittle and have not hardened off yet.”

Kelley said high nitrogen rates and good growing conditions increase green snap problems. Some fields in northeast Arkansas in isolated areas have reported 75 percent or more green snap damage.

Larson said the Mississippi corn crop “is a little behind in maturity. A lot of our corn was tasseling after June 1, which is fairly similar to last year, but it’s behind schedule to the long-term average. Maturity is determined by heat unit accumulation, and the low temperatures we had during March and early April slowed down the maturity a little bit.”

Larson said the Mississippi Delta corn crop “has been more consistent in terms of maturity, especially in the south Delta. Most of that corn was planted in March or very early April, and it’s been tasseled now for a couple of weeks. As you progress north, it’s naturally going to be a little later. There are some producers in the Hills who planted a significant portion of their crop in late April, even into May.

“So I’ve seen corn over the course of the last week that was anywhere from approaching milk stage, to corn at V8 and not more than 3-feet tall. Overall though, stands are better than they were last year when we had similar challenging conditions in the early spring.”

Larson said the heavy June rains caused flooding in corn fields and “a lot of soil saturation, which does have consequences in terms of plant growth, particularly for root growth during late vegetative stages. So there may be some complications associated with crop response to the environment.”



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