COLUMBUS, Ohio – 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 yes, as long as the weather cooperates and farmers follow the proper management practices.
"We saw some varieties this year make 120 bushels per acre, so producers know the crop has that ability. 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," said Beuerlein, who also holds a research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
Record wheat yields only come around once in a blue moon in Ohio, mainly because weather doesn't always cooperate. 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," said Beuerlein. "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 those potential record yields, 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. For the most northern counties, the Hessian fly-safe date is Sept. 22, and for most southern counties the date is around Oct. 4.
•Apply 20-30 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 the right seeding depth 1.0 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," said Beuerlein. "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.
Ohio wheat growers produce some of the highest quality soft red winter wheat sought after by millers and bakers in the nation. Ohio's wheat production brings in over $250 million to the state's agricultural industry, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.