The wheat is clean, but the yields are just average

USDA Crop Progress Reports can be helpful. But if you really want to know how a culture is doing, it’s best to go and see for yourself.

This is what a group of farmers, extension educators and representatives of the wheat industry did last week in the mid-Atlantic, as five teams totaling 50 people counted the plants. and spikelets and searched for disease and insect pressure in wheat fields from Delmarva to northern Pennsylvania.

“Those of us who came out all came to the same conclusion – that we don’t have a disease problem this year,” says John Sutton, owner of Sutton Trading Co. in Ambler, Pa., Which hosts the event. annual tour for 11 years.

But he doesn’t expect a bumper crop like the one in 2020, where growers reported record yields thanks to the good weather. This is because wet conditions last fall delayed planting and tiller establishment. In fact, some fields in Delmarva were not planted at all, which could lead to a higher base across the region.

“We’re looking at average yields in the range of 75 to 80 bushels, according to reports, but everyone last year saw fields over 100,” Sutton says. “I think this year will be about normal.”

A visit to the wheat fields of Berks, Schuylkill and Lebanon County showed no signs of ear blight caused by fusarium (ear scab), which is the biggest thief of wheat yield. Scab reduces grain yield and test weight, and is a big problem for millers.

There was patchy evidence of other insect diseases and pressures, including slugs, but nothing major that will affect yields as much. Del Voight, an agronomist from Penn State Extension, wiped the sweat from his brow as he led his group through lush, green wheat fields in Kutztown, Lebanon and just outside Lancaster.

He calculated the average yield to be 79.1 bushels per acre, down from the 2020 average of 105 bushels per acre, but yield averages varied widely from farm to farm, from 111 bushels to just 68 bushels.

Voight says the disparity could be attributed to an inconsistent number of spikelets.

Crop heights ranged from 32 to 46 inches. Most plants had eight or nine spikelets per head, although on one farm the plants had about 12 spikelets per head.

Estimated yields per field ranged from 59 bushels per acre to 129.5 bushels per acre.

Cutting of wheat on the east coast could begin in 10 days, Sutton said. All other regions will start cutting wheat around July 4, which he says is behind last year. The harvest did not come out of the woods in terms of weather effects. Sutton says that too much rain after maturity can damage germs and reduce test weights.

The USDA Crop Progress Report notes that most of Pennsylvania’s wheat is in good condition – 67% – while 17% is in excellent condition and 16% is in fair condition. Barley is doing a little better with 85% in good condition, 9% in excellent condition and 6% in fairly good condition.

The Maryland wheat crop is 41% color and 43% good, 18% excellent and 39% fair. Barley is also doing a little better with 55% in good condition, 10% in excellent condition and 34% in fair condition.

Delaware’s wheat crop is 80% colorful, well above the five-year average of 44%. The report notes that 49% of the crop is in good condition, 6% in excellent condition, 30% in fair condition and 15% in poor or very poor condition.

The Ohio Crop Status Report contained 91% of the state’s winter wheat heading and 76% in good to excellent condition.

Gary Wilson, president of the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program, says the weather has been pretty good across most of Ohio with timely rains and cooler temperatures than wheat likes.

“We have always struggled to compete with Europe and England, when it comes to wheat yield, because they have a very cool and temperate climate there, whereas here it is usually too hot, too fast, ”he said. “We haven’t had that this year. We had cooler temperatures, and until mid-June, it’s better for wheat. And with the high humidity of the last few days, it’s good for the wheat to keep growing these grains and increasing those yields. “

The disease pressure is lower than in recent years, Wilson says. “Spraying against scabies is all about timing, prediction and prevention,” he says. “For the most part farmers don’t wait any longer because if you start getting rain while the scab is coming it leads to vomitoxin and nightmare. The harvest is not yet in the bin, but the quality looks good.

On high-management wheat farms, Wilson says they will make multiple applications of fertilizers and fungicides. “This gave them unprecedented increases in performance 10 years ago,” he adds.

Some growers will remove wheat at the earliest opportunity to allow the soybean double crop.

For others, there has been a renewed interest in wheat as a cover crop. “They can do no-till very easily these days, and as soon as they take that soybean crop out, they sometimes follow it up with sowing wheat,” Wilson explains.

Make your own return calculation

If you want to calculate your own wheat yields, it will take a little time and some calculations, but it is not impossible.

Del Voight, extension educator with Penn State Cooperative Extension, says he uses a method developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that calculates the number of heads per foot in a row; average number of grains per head; then dividing by the row space.

Here is the process step by step:

1. Count the number of heads per plant in five different areas of a field, then calculate the average.

2. Average the number of kernels per ear of at least five ears at each site. This involves multiplying the number of spikelets per ear by the number of kernels per spikelet.

3. Measure the distance in inches between the rows.

The formula is the number of kernels per foot multiplied by the number of kernels per ear, divided by the space between the lines and multiplied by 0.48. This should give you an average yield in bushels.

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