Oklahoma's Wheat Crop 'In Really Good Shape,' According to OSU's Jeff EdwardsFri, 17 Jan 2014 13:30:54 CST
The state's wheat crop is about midway through its dormancy period and Dr. Jeff Edwards, Oklahoma State University Extension Wheat Specialist has been assessing this year's crop. He spoke recently with Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays about what he's seen so far. (You can listen to their full conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story. Edwards will also appear on this week's "In the Field" segment on News 9 Saturday morning about 6:40).
"We're in pretty good shape, especially if you compare this year to the last couple of years, we're in really good shape," Edwars said. "The real wheat belt in Oklahoma has some moisture. The wheat got off to a good start prior to dormancy. Due to the cold snap that we had, we actually have dormancy this year so the wheat is just kind of holding in place. So, we're in pretty good shape."
Edwards said there are some exceptions to that, particularly producers near Altus and in the western tier of counties. He said unless they got some snowfall in late December and early January, the crop is in rough shape in those areas, but, overall, conditions across the rest of the state have been ideal so far.
"We're really looking at a crop where in most cases the rows have either closed or come close to it and that's really where we need to be whenever we come out of dormancy and start jointing. We need the drill rows to close and normally it takes three to four tillers to do that and I think we're set up to be in optimal shape. Now if we can just get some moisture throughout the spring to go ahead and fuel that canopy, we'll be in really good shape."
With that kind of potential, Edwards said it is important for producers to begin top dressing applications early.
"That top-dress nitrogen needs to be into the rooting profile by the time the wheat is jointing which is going to be late February into early and mid March. So in order to have that happen we have to have the nitrogen out there now, hopefully get about a halt to three-quarters of an inch of rain on it and move it into the soil profile."
He said that getting a properly-fertilized crop at this point is extremely important. In terms of dollars invested, nitrogen has the biggest potential for maximizing returns. The relative value of pesticides and foliar fungicides applied later all hinge on having a well-fertilized crop.
"If you're looking at ways to get by and save some money, in my opinion, nitrogen is not one of them. You've really got to have that nitrogen out there if you hope to make the wheat crop."
When potential yields are high, as they appear to be right now, Edwards said that foliar fungicides have proven to be a good investment as well. He said they have been shown to increase yields an average of ten percent. Prices for fungicidal products vary greatly, he said, and it pays to shop around for the best value.
Edwards said another decision some producers will be having to make soon is when to take cattle off of wheat pasture. Ample moisture in late fall resulted in more forage available than earlier thought and many producers have taken advantage of that. He said those who intend to harvest a wheat crop need to remove their cattle from wheat pasture before jointing, at the first hollow stem stage.
"What we've found is that, any way you put a pencil to it, it is extremely rare that the added weight gains for grazing past first hollow stem offset the decreased grain yield. So, in the system as a whole, you maximize profitability by having those cattle off there by first hollow stem."
A tool to help producers get about a two-week warning of first hollow stem is launching on the Mesonet, Edwards said, and it will predict the date of first hollow stem if current weather conditions hold.
"That, hopefully, will allow our producers to get a little bit of an idea whether or not they need to be making plans to get those cattle off."
As far as planted varieties are concerned, Edwards said he expects reports to show that Duster acres will have decreased, but it will more than likely still be the number-one or number-two choice among farmers. He said he sees more producers choosing Duster descendants in the dual-purpose Gallagher and Iba varieties. He said he also expects Ruby Lee to have gained ground this year.
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