WOOSTER, Ohio - Ohio's winter wheat acreage is down this year, an eight-percent drop compared to last year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture's Winter Wheat Seedings report.
Growers have seeded 870,000 acres of winter wheat. In 2001, 950,000 acres of wheat were seeded. The USDA report also shows this season's planted acreage down 23 percent from the 1,120 acres of wheat planted in 2000.
"It is my estimation, and I hate to say this," said Ohio State plant pathologist Pat Lipps, "but this is probably one of the poorer wheat crops going into winter I've seen in a long time." Lipps said the reduction in acreage is largely due to the unusual wet weather during planting in October that water logged fields, creating ideal disease situations that either killed the seeds during germination or killed the seedlings after emergence. Northwest Ohio was hardest hit, with many counties reporting seven-to-10 inches of rain within a two-week period. As a result, growers were forced to replant several weeks beyond the Hessian fly free-date. Counties affected by wheat planting problems include Putnam, Paulding, Van Wert, Allen, Hancock, Henry, Defiance, Wood, and parts of Mercer, Shelby and Auglaize.
"Having to replant very late in November is just not conducive to high yields. It's likely that many fields in northwest Ohio will be converted into soybeans or corn this spring," said Lipps. "If they take some of those late-planted fields and plant something else, it's likely we could drop another 100,000-150,000 acres of wheat in the state." Despite the questionable production, Ohio's mild winter has given the crop a boost and growers are keeping their fingers crossed that a warm, early spring is on the way to help tillering of the plants to increase yields.
"The warm weather in November and first part of December actually helped us out some so that the wheat could get better established. We need a mild winter with snow cover to protect young plants from freezing injury," said Lipps. "And we also need warmer than usual growing conditions in March and April so there is sufficient tillering to develop the number of heads to get a reasonable yield." Lipps said much of the winter wheat has only one tiller per plant. At least three-four tillers per plant are needed to produce the 60-70 bushel yields that growers are accustomed to.
"Based on the yield potential for this year, it'll be interesting to see what our total production will be," said Lipps. "Obviously, we'll have a drop in production, but how much of a drop it's hard to say at this point in time." Ohio ranks seventh overall among all winter wheat-producing states in the United States and produces some of the highest quality soft red winter wheat sought after by millers and bakers.