High-yielding varieties coupled with ideal growing conditions can turn an average crop into a record season. With this year's Ohio wheat crop on its way to falling into that category, growers are wondering if the magic can happen again next year.
Jim Beuerlein, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist, says it can, as long as the weather cooperates and farmers follow proper management practices.
"We saw some varieties this year make 120 bushels per acre, so producers know the crop has that ability," Beuerlein says. "Whether or not we see such bushels depends on how well producers manage their crop and also what the weather does this fall between planting and winter dormancy, and again next spring."
Record wheat yields only come around once in a blue moon in Ohio, mainly because weather doesn't always cooperate, Beuerlein says. Wheat thrives best in the spring under cool conditions and most of the time, Ohio's spring is wet and warm –- much better growing conditions for corn and soybeans.
"That's why we tell producers to manage their wheat for an 80- or 90-bushel crop. We know that weather prohibits them from making a 120-bushel-per-acre crop most years. But with good management, it could make an 80- or 90-bushel crop," Beuerlein says. "Then, if the weather is really ideal, the wheat will take advantage of it and produce a bigger yield. But if it doesn't work out that way, we still get a good crop."
To give the 2010 wheat a chance at potential record yields, Beuerlein says growers should practice the following management techniques as they plan for next year's crop:
- Plant after the Hessian fly-safe date to reduce risks from Hessian fly and barley yellow dwarf disease.
- Apply 20 to 30 pounds of nitrogen per acre before planting, and be sure the soil phosphorous level is above 25 parts per million and the soil pH above 6.5.
- Plant at the right seeding rate 18 to 25 seeds per foot of row for both a 7.5- and 15-inch row spacing.
- Plant at a seeding depth 1 to 1.5 inches deep.
- Select disease-resistant varieties. Disease is by far the biggest yield drag of wheat.
"The management practices are pretty simple, and growers know what to do," Beuerlein says. "The key is what happens with the weather."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wheat yields in Ohio reached their highest in 2000, averaging 72 bushels per acre. This year, some wheat growers across the state are harvesting upwards of 100 bushels per acre.