Last year’s harvest was considered late by most Michigan growers’ standard, but the 2014 crop will push even further into July. It may actually compare closest to the 2011 harvest which stands as one of the latest in recent history.
The earliest fields in the southern tier counties are currently being harvested. However, the bulk of Michigan’s crop will need to wait one to two weeks, and the cooler areas of the state may see combines operating into August. The late season is due, in part, to delayed planting last fall and a slow green-up this spring. However, the prolonged growing season is mostly due to relatively cool temperatures experienced so far this season. Most wheat growing areas also found disease pressure to be relatively light and soil moisture has been mostly adequate. This is to say that the crop avoided being shut down prematurely, as is often the case with late maturing wheat crops, due to hot temperatures, dry conditions or severe foliar diseases.
These factors should bode well for grain yields as the crop has had a reasonably good length of time to fill the kernels. Michigan State University Extension notes that this grain-fill-period, the days between full flowering and physiological maturity, is critical to achieving grain of good quality and quantity. Generally, a grain-fill period of 30 days or more might be considered favorable under Michigan conditions.
This is not to suggest that this harvest will be a bin-buster. The crop cannot be expected to recoup the losses it sustained from this past winter. Nevertheless, thanks to the relatively friendly conditions of the past few months, the crop’s quality is expected to be good and crop yields may be off just a couple bushels from the state average 75 bushels attained the past few years.