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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Don't Count Wheat Out Just Yet

April 25, 2002

WOOSTER, Ohio - Unseasonably warm temperatures to kick off spring in Ohio have given the state's wheat crop a boost in growth, and enough of one that questionable fields may be salvaged to produce a decent crop.

Pat Lipps, an Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist and researcher with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, said the crop throughout most of the state has reached a point in growth where no new tillers will be produced, but potential is still there for good yields.

"There's a lot of variability between fields and even within fields with plant height and tiller development, but the crop overall is looking pretty good," said Lipps. "From here on out to flowering, the crop's performance will be strictly temperature dependent." The wheat crop in parts of the state such as northwest Ohio experienced stand establishment problems last fall due to wet weather and disease development, and many fields were replanted very late.

Lipps said that just a few weeks ago farmers were deciding if they should replace those fields with corn or soybeans, but now the wheat has developed enough tillers to produce a marketable crop. "Replanted fields are doing just fine. The crop has about four or five tillers. Not as many as we'd like to see at this point in time, but it has the potential to make a good crop nonetheless," said Lipps. "It's those fields that were never replanted that look really bad. They will have to be taken out." While the warm weather helped boost wheat growth, Lipps said the wheat shouldn't develop too fast this early. The slip to more normal, cooler temperatures as of late may prove to be beneficial to the crop's performance.

"The crop would probably do well with a bit of cold weather, because it'll slow growth down. We don't want to see heading before the 10th of May because the chance of frost is just too much," said Lipps. "If the heads come out too early, they are vulnerable to freezing injury. If we can avoid that, that'd be great." One thing the crop has not been able to avoid is disease. Lipps said powdery mildew growth is present on plants in some fields. "Farmers should be scouting their fields over the next few weeks to determine how severe the problem is and take appropriate action." Other diseases showing up on wheat include Stagonospora leaf blotch and wheat soil borne mosaic, barley yellow dwarf and wheat spindle streak mosaic viruses.

Candace Pollock
Pat Lipps