Early wheat report: 2016 crop ?looks good? so far

The wheat looks good out there. So far, at least.

A prolonged season of at least adequate moisture for the top soil in most places, plus the nearly premature warmth of March, has brought on an early lush, green growth.

But experienced professionals like Marion County Extension Agent Rickey Roberts know, ?we got a long way to go? before that wheat gets cut in June and July.

It?s been a mild winter, but who knows what can happen if the north wind begins to blow in a severe cold front, Roberts said.

Even though the crop looks maybe better than decent, on the plus side it may be that it?s not too far along yet. Roberts said at this stage of development, the wheat could get frozen back more than once, and still be fine.

On the negative side, if the area doesn?t continue to get regular rains, but does get wind, some wheat ?blow-outs? could occur, he said.

Experience teaches both Roberts and any wheat farmer not to get too optimistic too soon.

?It?s just not that far along now,? he said. ?April weather can still do a lot of damage.?

The wheat leaves we are seeing now are the ?cover leaves,? the ones that keep the plant going and gaining in strength before the ?flag leaf? emerges, he said.

Roberts said the flag leaf is part of the maturing portion of the plant from which the grain head emerges. Late bad weather can cause lasting damage to yield by injuring the flag leaf or the grain head, he added.

?I get real uneasy if I see damage to the flag leaf,? Roberts said. ?We?re really not too far along on the wheat growth.

?It?s much too early to really talk about what we could end up with.?

But at its Topeka office, the USDA Agricultural Statistics Office is talking about it.

Across the state USASO rated crop acreage moisture at 8 percent ?very short,? 36 percent ?short,? 55 percent ?adequate ?and 1 percent ?surplus.?

The agency rated the winter wheat condition statewide at 1 percent ?very poor,? 6 percent ?poor,? 37 percent ?fair,? 50 percent ?good? and 6 percent ?excellent.?

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