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Michigan Wheat Program's Wheat Wisdom July 3, 2017: Issue 35

Posted: Jul 3, 2017

Notes from Pennington:
Excessive rainfall and flooding = cause for concern in your wheat crop?

By Dennis Pennington, MSU wheat specialist
The week of June 19-25 saw significant rainfall for most of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, with some areas receiving over 6 inches in a 36-hour period.  The central part of the state was hardest hit with major flooding of fields and roadways.
So what does this mean for the wheat crop? Generally, wheat can tolerate flooding conditions (under water) for 48 to 96 hours.
Oxygen concentration in flooded soils can reach zero in as little as 24 hours.  Oxygen is needed for normal plant functions including respiration, water uptake and root growth.  Waterlogging also causes increased CO2 in plants which can be toxic at high concentrations.
When plants are under water, the stomata close and remain closed until the water recedes.   These extended periods of stomatal closure can result in reduced respiration, transpiration and photosynthesis. 
The timing with crop growth stage is very important in determining the type of damage that can occur.  Most of the wheat at this time is past the flowering stage and is in grain fill.

Premature death at this time can reduce yield mostly through reductions in kernel weight (test weight). Other factors affecting crop yield include washouts and lodged wheat resulting from runoff water.
It’s important to remain patient before drawing conclusions about how bad the remaining crop is.  We need to let the water drain and give the plant time to respond.
From a management perspective, there really is not much that can be done at this stage of the game. 
Be sure to scout the wheat and pay attention to any diseases that might flare up as a result of the flooding.  Head scab requires hot, humid conditions – neither of which we have had or are forecast to have in the next week.
If your fields drain out well, you may not have much to worry about; but if not, you will want to be paying attention.  Make sure you keep your crop insurance specialist updated on the crop condition in case you have a claim.


Harvest reminders from Nagelkirk 
By Martin Nagelkirk, MSU wheat educator

The harvest of Michigan’s 2017 wheat crop is underway in southern Michigan and will soon begin in the more central areas of the state.  The following are some reminders for the harvest season:

-  Avoid contamination:  There is zero tolerance for grain having any evidence of a seed treatment.  Any equipment (wagons, augers, etc.) that has been exposed to treated seed should not be used for grain handling.

-  Clean bins:  the best measure to reduce the risk of having grain insects is to thoroughly clean bins and use an approved insecticide on the walls and floor of the empty bin.

-  Harvest safety:  All farmers should take steps to insure that equipment is in good repair and working order.  This should include everything from equipment steps to running lights.  In addition, everyone involved in the harvest operation should be instructed regarding potential hazards associated with the harvest, hauling and storage of grain.

-   Combine maintenance:  Of course, operators should feel assured that the combine is in good working order and settings are consistent with manufacturer’s recommendations.

-  Timely harvest:  This season the risk of scab is relatively low for most if not the entire state.  Nevertheless, the risk of pre-harvest sprouting (low falling number scores) for both red and white wheat continues to be a potential issue. To minimize the chance of sprouting (measured as falling number), harvest and dry grain as soon as possible (see Understanding Pre-harvest Sprouting of Wheat).

-  Combine adjustments:  This crop may well be one that presents a range of harvest conditions.  Operators will need to be comfortable making adjustments as necessary to optimize threshing efficiency and minimize harvest loss.
 Fecal contamination:  There is zero tolerance of fecal contamination in this food crop.  Operators need to avoid deer droppings on lodged wheat, and to tarp trucks and wagons used as temporary storage to avoid bird and rodent droppings.

-Note grassy weeds: Grassy weeds are becoming more common.  Windgrass has a small seed that is inevitably carried from field to field within the combine.  Chess is one that tends to be carried with the wheat grain and will be reseeded along with any wheat retained for seed.  Rough bluegrass is a relatively new grass that is showing up across the state.

Control noxious weeds: growers are encouraged to be aggressive in fighting particularly noxious weeds such as marestail (horseweed, pictured) and new pigweed species.  Use mowing, tillage or an herbicide on the wheat stubble before these broadleaf weeds form a seed head.

-  Cover crop:  Once wheat is harvested, it is an opportune time to use a cover crop.  There are several options including encouraging the growth volunteer wheat. 



USDA forecasts good yields, smaller wheat acreage and total harvest for Michigan

In a recent report, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service office in East Lansing issued a release noting that the state's wheat growers "remain optimistic about this year's crop, as overall expected yield remained unchanged form last month at 85 bushels per acre."

NASS's June 30 report pegged winter wheat acreage to be harvested this summer at 430,000 acres, compared with 480,000 acres planted.  "Harvested acres of winter wheat for grain are anticipated to be ... down 140,000 acres from a year ago," the report said.  The agency forecast the state's total wheat production would be 34 million bushels in 2017.

Commenting on the anticipated 85 bushels per acre, USDA noted that level would be four bushels per acre below 2016's record high productivity.  The Michigan figure is well above the nationally-expected average yield of about 49 bushels per acre - which would still be the second-highest yield in US history, behind only 2016.

Nationally, winter wheat production is expected to be 1.25 billion bushels, down 25 percent from 2016, according to the earlier report.  The June 30 USDA report estimated national winter wheat planted at 32.8 million acres, down 9 percent from last year - with only 25.8 million acres expected to be harvested.

The planted acreage includes 23.8 million acres of hard red winter wheat, 5.6 million acres of soft red winter wheat and 3.4 million acres of white winter wheat.

"This represents the second lowest winter wheat planted area on record since records began in 1909," according to the June 30 NASS report.

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