WOOSTER, Ohio -- Despite this year's roller-coaster season -- from a mild early winter to a colder-than-usual early spring to a dry summer -- Ohio's wheat growers have turned out a crop that is better than originally anticipated.
With nearly all the crop now harvested, early reports are placing average yields at 62-63 bushels per acre, on track with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's yield forecast of 64 bushels per acre. Last year, average yield was 68 bushels per acre. However, Ohio growers planted 180,000 fewer acres this year compared to last year, and are only anticipated to harvest 49.9 million bushels.
"Yields are all over the board, from around 35 bushels per acre to over 100 bushels per acre. Normally we'd like to see average yields in the upper 60s or lower 70s, but given the season we've had, I'll take 63 or 64 bushels per acre," said Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
From a hard spring freeze that damaged some of the wheat fields to a summer drought that shortened the grain fill period, how well the crop would fare was questionable. Paul said he was pleased to see wheat pull through with no further problems and little disease to boot.
"The weather has been up and down all season. I'm happy we didn't have a lot of diseases to contend with, head scab being one of them," said Paul. "Reports are coming in regarding good test weights and no concerns about high levels of vomitoxin contamination."
Paul said that now that wheat is nearing the end of harvest, it's time to start thinking about next season's crop.
"Growers are already concerned about some of the things we've had to deal with this year, most notably barley yellow dwarf disease and cereal leaf beetle," said Paul. "This year, barley yellow dwarf disease was mainly driven by the mild early winters, which probably favored a high aphid population. Aphids are vectors for the virus."
Paul said the best way to manage barley yellow dwarf is to plant after the Hessian Fly safe date.
"We had more barley yellow dwarf this year than usual," said Paul, "and if we have another mild winter next season, we could see the disease again, even in fields planted after the fly-safe date. However, growers are still encouraged to stick to the old tested and proven method of planting after the fly-safe date as their first line of defense against this disease."
Paul and his colleagues will also be focusing on cereal leaf beetle next season. The insect, which has not been a problem in Ohio since the 1960s, is beginning to show up again. For the past two seasons researchers have documented the presence of the insect in high enough numbers as to warrant treatment. The main goal of the research is to determine the reason for its reappearance.
Ohio wheat growers produce some of the highest quality soft red winter wheat sought after by millers and bakers in the nation. Ohio ranks 9th overall among all winter wheat-producing states, bringing in nearly $189 million to the state's agricultural industry, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.