WOOSTER, Ohio --Ohio farmers have planted over a million acres of wheat this season, the second year that seeding has surged over the 1 million mark.
According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, farmers planted 1.02 million acres, slightly down from the 1.12 million acres planted in 2008, but still 20 percent higher than 2007 plantings.
Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, said he is pleased to see farmers continue the trend of planting over 1 million acres.
"It's exciting when we see 1 million acres for wheat. We want to continue to see wheat stay in the crop rotation," said Paul, who also holds an Ohio State University Extension appointment.
Due to timely planting and good winter survival, Paul anticipates this season's crop to green up and perform well.
"It's that time of year when everybody is anxious to know what is going to become of the wheat crop. It's still too early to tell. March is always a very stressful time for wheat due to the rapid changes in air temperatures, potential for heaving, and flooding," said Paul. "However, what we've seen thus far is that the wheat seems to be coming out of winter in pretty good shape and that's largely because we had a good planting season and good snow cover. Good tiller development in the fall and adequate snow cover during the winter months leads to good-looking wheat in the spring."
Paul said that many growers are interested in estimating yield potential this early in the season, but with unknown factors such as diseases and weather impacts yet to surface, it's difficult to give an accurate number.
"There are a couple of models out there that allow growers to count the number of tillers per foot of row and then use that number to estimate how much yield they are going to get at the end of the season," said Paul. "However, I wouldn't advise Ohio farmers to rely on any one model because growing conditions for Ohio are different from growing conditions elsewhere."
For now, Paul encourages growers to stay true to the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to crop management.
"Walk the fields toward April when the wheat begins to green up. Do a tiller count. Make timely herbicide and nitrogen applications," said Paul. "For now, in general, wheat looks good across the state."
Wheat harvest averaged 68 bushels per acre in 2008, and Paul hopes that growers will at least be able to maintain those yields this season.
Ohio wheat growers produce some of the nation's highest quality soft red winter wheat sought after by millers and bakers. Ohio's wheat production brings in over $250 million to the state's agricultural industry, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
For updates on Ohio's wheat crop throughout the season, log on to the OSU Extension Agronomic Crops Team Web site at http://agcrops.osu.edu.