WOOSTER, Ohio -- Due to dry conditions and high temperatures throughout Ohio this season, growers may not be harvesting a bumper wheat crop.
The crop is maturing (turning) more quickly than anticipated and harvest may begin at some locations towards the end of the week. This is at least seven to 14 days earlier than usual for the state. Warm temperatures have shortened the grain fill period, potentially leading to smaller kernels and lower yields.
"Cooler temperatures extend the grain fill period. But the warmer it gets, the faster the crop shuts down," said Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "We don't have any yield estimates yet, but I'm not anticipating a bumper crop."
According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, wheat is over 75 percent in fair to good condition. Nearly 30 percent of the crop is turning color, compared to 16 percent this time last year and 12 percent more than during the five-year average.
A bright side with the dry conditions has been little to no reports of head scab, a disease that can reduce yields and produce contaminants, called mycotoxins, harmful to humans and livestock.
"Millers will still be conducting routine mycotoxin tests on wheat grain, but despite those normal procedures, I don't anticipate mycotoxin contamination to be a concern this year at all," said Paul, who also holds an OSU Extension appointment. "If we receive a few wet days between now and harvest, we could potentially be facing some problems, but it's not expected. Growers are advised to harvest their crop as soon as it dries down to avoid potential showers during harvest and minimize mold development in storage"
Nationally, production is forecast at 1.61 billion bushels, up 24 percent from 2006. Wheat acreage in Ohio, however, is down -- 760,000 acres compared to 960,000 acres in 2006. Paul said that increased corn acreage may have accounted for a small percentage of that number. But the biggest reason for the decrease in acreage is due to poor planting conditions this past fall.
"Some wheat was torn out because it wasn't going to produce a good crop, and there's nothing else growers can do but to plant corn or soybeans in its place," said Paul.
Wheat production in Ohio is forecast at 48.6 million bushels, 16.7 million bushels fewer than last year. Corn and soybean acreage estimates have not yet been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.