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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Weather Kind to Ohio's Wheat

April 15, 2003

WOOSTER, Ohio — The weather, so far, has been good to Ohio’s wheat with much of the crop rapidly “greening up” throughout the state. “The wheat is trying to begin its re-growth phase,” said Pat Lipps, an Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist. “The wheat throughout much of the state is in good shape with high tiller numbers — anywhere between 25 to 35 per foot of row, which is very sufficient for any kind of yield we could ever expect.” Ohio growers have planted an estimated 1 million acres of wheat, up from 860,000 acres planted last year. “That’s good because it’s taking some of the soybean acres out of continuous soybeans and improving our crop rotations,” said Lipps, a professor with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio. According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, nearly 60 percent of the wheat crop has been rated in “good” condition. But, as with other crops, the weather is the limiting factor in the wheat’s overall performance throughout the growing season. Some portions of wheat fields throughout northern Ohio were impacted by ponding, a condition where snow and ice melt as the weather warms and the water sits in poorly drained or low-lying fields. The longer the water sits, the greater the chance of killing the seedlings. “Despite some ponding, the crop looks better than it did last year,” said Lipps. “For an excellent wheat crop this season, it should stay in the 50- or 60-degree range until mid-May and then warm up to the 70s and stay there until mid-July. If it gets any warmer, the wheat crop will ripen quickly and the grain-filling period will be short, impacting overall yields.” For now growers should be focusing on applying nitrogen to their crop and controlling weeds. The watch for diseases won’t begin until the end of April or beginning of May when the crop enters the flag leaf stage. Lipps said the first disease of the season is powdery mildew, brought on by high relative humidity, cloudy skies and cool temperatures ranging in the 60s and low 70s. “The next disease is Stagonospora leaf and glume blotch, promoted by wet weather. That’s the one disease where if we get two or three days of rain a week and it’s not drying, it can get pretty severe,” said Lipps. “Then we have the possibility of leaf rust in late May and early June, and, of course, head scab during flowering.” Head scab, or Fusarium head blight, can be devastating for wheat producers. The disease is likely to occur when warm, wet weather persists during the crop’s flowering stage in late May and early June. The disease infects the wheat heads, causing shrunken, lightweight kernels, thereby reducing the quality of the grain. The fungus that causes the disease also produces a chemical in the infected grain called vomitoxin that is toxic to livestock and humans. The disease was reported in low levels throughout Ohio last year.

Candace Pollock
Pat Lipps