KSU ag specialists say wheat harvest still hopeful

Wheat across Kansas is facing a number of difficulties. Some wheat is short, some has suffered freeze damage, some were victims of extreme drought stress, but nearly all of it has one thing in common—it’s immature.

Twenty-five vehicles left Manhattan April 30 carrying around 100 agronomists, producers and others from the wheat industry. The carloads took a meandering road trip across the state to scout fields for the 2018 Hard Winter Wheat Tour.

Wheat across the state was found to be two to four weeks behind its normal stage of development, according to a report by Kansas State University Extension Wheat and Forages Specialist Dr. Romulo Lollato, Extension Wheat Pathologist Dr. Erick DeWolf and KSU Service Climatologist Mary Knapp.

Fields in the “late boot” and “early heading” stages were the furthest along on the 2018 tour and mostly found in central and south central Kansas, while much of the wheat in northwest Kansas had just started to joint.

The trio said the delayed development was caused by a combination of drought stress and below-average temperatures during the growing season.

While the delayed growth is not ideal, Reno County Extension Agent Darren Busick said it may not be a nail in the coffin for central Kansas wheat.

“We didn’t have the moisture to grow back when we needed it, but now if we can get some timely rains, the moisture will go to filling those heads,” Busick said. “If it stays cool and we get some moisture, we could still see a decent wheat crop.”

Busick said he would estimate an average yield between 30 and 40 bushels per acre for Reno County if conditions are favorable.

However, for wheat in western Kansas not yet to the heading stage, there is a long way to go. Warm, dry weather can decrease the time for wheat to reach maturity, damaging overall yield.

According to the report from KSU, drought or heat stress during the fill stages can limit the production of sugars decrease the accumulation of starch in the grain, hurting yield and test weight.

Severe drought stress symptoms were reported for nearly all wheat from Rush County to the west, with the exception of far northwest Kansas.

The KSU report said without timely rains, producers in these areas may have to decide between harvesting fields with very limited yield potential or switching to a summer crop.

Central Kansas fields in the area between McPher­son and Edwards counties showed signs of freeze damage to the stem and developing heads, which will affect yield. While freeze damage was evident statewide, most was reported to be cosmetic.

Busick agreed that most of Reno County’s freeze damage shouldn’t affect yield potential.

“The freeze damage I’ve been seeing is mostly to tillers,” Busick said. “I’d say 20 to 25 percent of that damage came from the last two freezes in mid-April. I think we’ve seen more stress from drought.”

Tour scouts in south central Kansas and northern Oklahoma found instances of stripe rust, and Busick has seen limited instances of it in Reno County. Busick encouraged farmers to keep an eye on fields after rains at the end of last week, which could have spread spores.

The Kansas Wheat Com­mission reported an average yield estimate of 37 bushels per acre following the tour, although yield estimates for individual fields ranged from over 50 bushels per acre to the teens.

Near the end of the tour on May 2, drought stressed wheat got a drink, with widespread rainfall across western and south central Kansas.

However, Lollato said continued moisture and cool temperatures is crucial for a decent crop. If temperatures heat up and stay dry, yield potential may be severely limited.

by Chance Hoener

Kansas Agland

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