Wheat crop may be in better shape than originally feared

WOOSTER, Ohio – Wheat is beginning to “green up” across Ohio, and the crop – despite a late planting in some areas – looks promising.

Looking good

Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist and wheat specialist, said that unfavorable weather conditions last fall and late soybean harvest prevented growers from planting wheat in a timely manner. In some cases, not all of the wheat made it in the ground.

“Despite the delays, what wheat has been planted is looking good. We had some relatively warm conditions during late fall and early winter, so we had some tiller development going on as late as November, and we had good snow cover,” said Paul, who also holds an appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Crop assessment

Paul said final stand counts and a complete assessment of the state of the crop will be determined soon, as temperatures continue to warm up.

He urged producers to get out and walk their fields for two reasons: to look for signs of heaving and to make sure they don’t miss Feekes Growth Stage 6 and Feekes Growth Stage 7.

Critical period

Heaving, where the crown of the plant is exposed at the soil surface, is caused by repeated freezing and thawing. Paul anticipates few heaving problems. Growth stages 6 and 7 mark a critical period of the crop’s development that requires chemical applications.

“Growers should be getting a feel for the growth stage of their wheat now so they don’t miss nitrogen and herbicide applications,” said Paul. “Both applications should be made before the wheat reaches growth stages 6.”

Feekes Growth Stage 6 is when the first node appears above the soil line. This shows up as a slightly swollen area about an inch or so from the base of the stem.

“Since all tillers will not reach the same growth stage at the same time, pull tillers from multiple areas of the field and look for the node on the main tillers,” said Paul. “Run your fingers over the base of the tiller and feel for a slight lump or swelling.”

Feekes Growth Stage 7 is when the second node is visible above the soil surface. It can be detected in the same manner.

As the season developments, officials will be keeping a close eye on the potential development of head scab, a disease that impacts wheat at the flowering stage.

Concerns expressed

Paul said many growers are already expressing concerns over head scab due to high levels of ear mold in last year’s corn crop. The same fungus that causes ear rot also causes head scab in wheat. However, Paul said that it is too early to tell if head scab will be a problem this year, since it will depend on the weather conditions during flowering.

Refer to the OSU Extension Agronomic Crops Team Web site for future field crops developments at http://agcrops.osu.edu.

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