Record heat, dry soils and high March and April winds, have added up to an ailing wheat crop in many areas this year. It’s especially true where the wheat emerged late and is very small, said Jim Shroyer, Kansas State University research and Extension crop production specialist.

There is still time for wheat to recover to some extent if April rains materialize he said, depending on the growth stage and how severely the crop was stressed.

“Maximum head size is already determined where the wheat has jointed, but kernel weight can still respond to good weather and can make up for some of the loss in yield potential,” Shroyer explained.

“Even if the main tillers have died, secondary tillers can still begin growing this spring if the crown is alive and the crop receives some rain and cool weather,” he said. For example, in 2007 central and eastern Kansas faced a hard freeze in early April. “Some of this wheat produced secondary tillers after the main tillers died, and the wheat yielded 10 to 20 bushels per acre in some cases. But in that case, the soil had good moisture and weather conditions for the remainder of the spring were ideal,” Shroyer said.

Where the wheat looks bad, Shroyer said producers have a dilemma. What’s the yield potential of that wheat? Is the damage irreversible, or will improved conditions help? It might be a good idea to start planning now for all possibilities, he said.

Producers with an insured wheat crop insured cannot take any action until the insurance company’s loss-adjuster releases it. After that, there are a few options from an agronomic perspective, Shroyer said.

Failed wheat could be harvested for forage; however, there’s probably not enough forage present on short, drought-stressed wheat to be worth cutting, he added.

If producers plan to plant wheat again in the field this fall, they should leave the failed crop in place over the summer to prevent blowing, then kill the volunteer wheat in early summer before planting next fall.

If the field has been released by the insurance adjuster and the field dies or is terminated, producers could no-till a summer crop into the wheat residue, assuming there is enough moisture and there are no herbicide-carryover problems that would interfere, Shroyer said.

“Producers may be able to plant grain sorghum, summer annual forages or possibly soybeans into the residue, depending on moisture availability and any cropping restrictions from herbicides applied to the wheat. Foxtail millet is a short-season, summer annual forage that could work well in this situation,” he explained.

If the wheat stand is spotty, with part of the field alive and part dead, then it’s probably best to spray the field with glyphosate before planting the summer crop, Shroyer said.

 Source: Kansas State University