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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Time to Assess Rapidly Developing Wheat

April 22, 2008

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Spring is here and that means it's time for Ohio wheat growers to head to the fields to assess their crop in order to make timely management decisions.

Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, said that growers should first assess the crop's growth stage. Growers concerned about the state of their crop should also conduct a stand count in fields or sections of fields that may exhibit problems.

"Growers want to go out and count the tillers in poor-looking areas of their field. Fifteen tillers per-foot-of-row is considered minimum for an economic crop," said Paul, who also holds an OSU Extension appointment. "If growers faced issues with standing water in fields, then a stand count becomes that much more important." The number of tillers on the wheat determines yield potential, and yields are reduced if tiller numbers fall below 25 per square foot after green-up.

"Growers should then assess the crop's growth stage by pulling multiple tillers in multiple areas in the field, stripping off the lower leaves and looking for the first node. The wheat is at growth stage six. Growers need to identify the growth stage because most of the critical management decisions with fungicide, herbicide and insecticide applications all depend on specific growth stages," said Paul. "In general, herbicide applications should be made before the first node develops. Remember, short-looking wheat does not mean that the crop is not developing and advancing through the different growth stages. Growers who rely on the height of the crop as an indicator of crop development may be missing a critical growth stage for herbicide application."

Paul indicated that the wheat crop is greening-up rapidly throughout the state.

"The crop is developing very fast and it looks great, especially when compared to last year's crop," said Paul.

According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, Ohio's wheat crop is 90 percent in fair to excellent condition.

"I want us to have a great wheat crop this year. In recent years we've seen a decline in our wheat acreage. However, increased acreage this year (over 1 million acres) is due largely because of the high wheat prices," said Paul. "But if we get good yields on top of the good prices, that will be a boon for wheat because it's such an important part of our rotational system. If we don't have major disease concerns and if the grain fill period isn't too warm to where it shortens the grain-fill period, then we should have a bumper crop."

For more information on wheat management in Ohio, log on to the OSU Extension Agronomy Crop Team Web site at

Ohio wheat growers produce some of the highest quality soft red winter wheat sought after by millers and bakers in the nation. Ohio ranks fifth overall among all winter wheat-producing states based on total production and inventory, bringing in over $215 million to the state's agricultural industry, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Candace Pollock
Pierce Paul