The 2016 wheat crop can be compared to a roller-coaster ride. And most of the up and downs have been weather-related.
This past fall, wet field conditions hampered planting, with not all intended acres going into wheat.
Then, January and February’s dry conditions reduced growth.
As the wheat began to break dormancy in March, the rains came. That was a very good thing then, but in some fields it became too much of a good thing as a fungus disease, known as rust, began to emerge. That was due to extended moist and humid conditions.
As warmer weather reduced rust, spring storms produced hail, damaging the crop in locations across the area. On the plus side, moisture during the grain-fill stage was adding to the quality of the remaining crop. As the rains continued, producers were beginning to become concerned about “head sprouting,” in which the mature wheat begins to germinate before harvest. Also, because of the moisture many other weeds and plants such as wild oats began to emerge.
Wheat was once considered a “windshield crop” planted in the fall, and harvested in the late spring, requiring little maintenance. Not the case these days.
A former extension entomologist compared wheat to a cat with nine lives, able to bounce back from some minor setbacks.
The small grain program conducted by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service provides producers with the tools to help this regional crop withstand most of these setbacks. For several years, the research and variety plots in northeast Taylor County have been the focal point for this needed research. Besides grain yields, disease resistance, weed control and insect tolerance have been addressed.
To reduce input cost, Dr. Jake Mowrer, soil nutrient and water resource management specialist, is exploring the nutrient needs of wheat and comparing available soil levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium at different levels in the soil profile.
Mowrer stresses the need for a soil test to determine the amount of fertilizer to be applied, and the timing of the fertilizer.
“Economically, producers must only applied what is needed,” he said.
Mowrer plans to begin detailed survey and fertility plots in the region to address this subject.
Besides crop conditions, wheat is facing lower prices this spring. At the recent Wheat Field day, the question of what will a certain variety yield was posed. The answer was 40 bushels, but one producer said it needed to make 80 to cover costs this year.
Dragging on prices are back-to-back record world wheat crops. USDA estimates the world produced 725.12 million metric tons in the 2014-15 marketing year, with another 732.79 million metric tons estimated for the 2015-16 marketing year.
World ending stocks, meanwhile, are seen ballooning to a record 227.3 million metric tons for the current year, according to Darrell Holaday of Country Hedging in Frankfort, Kansas. With enough wheat to go around, the U.S. faces a lot of competition on the export front, Holaday says.
Dr. Mark Welch, grain marketing specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, keeps a close watch on the wheat crop throughout the Midwest. He notes that crop conditions have dropped somewhat, but overall a large crop is expected from U.S. producers this year.
Wheat in the Big Country is a multipurpose crop providing grain, grazing and, at times, hay. While production levels look promising, the financial returns are not so great in 2016.
(Source – http://www.reporternews.com/business/agriculture/big-country-wheat-production-promising-prices-not-3402676c-4eb2-38a1-e053-0100007fec31-381925461.html)