Spring rains raise prospects for promising summer wheat harvest

It?s almost hard to believe that the prospect of a good wheat harvest may be less than a month away.

Cool, moist spring weather seems to be building toward a potentially excellent crop year.

Corn is emerging in strong stands, the potential looks good for soybean planting and the winter wheat heads are headed for maturity.

With the possibility of high winds and hail that was predicted for Saturday, Marion County Extension Agent Rickey Roberts said Friday that he remains ?cautiously optimistic? for this year?s wheat crop and perhaps the other two crops as well.

But there?s a lot of summer to come.

With the arrival of regular rains, Roberts said of his outlook for area farmers, ?I think it?s improved quite a bit. I?m more optimistic than I was a couple of weeks ago. The rain and cool weather certainly helped the head-filling process. There is some rust and other disease out there.?

But Roberts cautioned, ?It?s not in the bin yet. It probably needs another drink, and then some dry, hotter weather before harvest. That will happen.?

Robert said the emerging wheat crop appears ?way better? than last year?s.

?I?m not saying it?s a bin buster,? he said. ?It could be hot, dry and hurting in three weeks. But I am cautiously optimistic.?

Roberts said if anyone wants to know the ideal conditions for raising wheat, he or she can look across the Atlantic Ocean to England where ?they can grow the heck out of wheat.?

Wheat yields can seem incredibly high in England.

?It stays cooler there,? he said.

It doesn?t have to be wet in England, Roberts said, because the wheat responds to the consistency of cool weather with just adequate moisture.

Statewide tour

Prospects for the 2015 wheat harvest varies around the state. Participants in the recent Kansas Wheat tour predicted a crop this year of 288.5 million bushels, up 17 percent from 2014 but still far short of the 360 to 480 million bushels that comprise the highest five crops for the state since 2000.

As the scouts traveled south of Colby, they quickly began to see some of the most drought stricken wheat in the state. The southwestern portion of the state showed an estimated range from 0-18 bushels per acre.

But when the participants turned east, they began to see some of the best looking wheat so far in the tour. The stretch from Dodge City to Wichita showed a stronger potential, with most fields averaging from 35-50 bushels per acre.

?A worrisome thing that I saw was the amount of stripe rust along these routes,? said Romulo Pisa Lollato, the future wheat and forages extension specialist for Kansas State University.

?We found stripe rust in five out of 16 samples between Dodge City and Kingman County, and it concerns me because of the area?s good yield potentials.?

While rain means good things for a wheat crop, it also is good for disease as well. Other issues spotted along the tour were wheat streak mosaic virus, wheat smut, winter kill, hail damage and?the elephant in the room?drought stress.