Multiple challenges impact 2012 wheat

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The winter wheat crop has faced several challenges this year including diseases and pests despite a warm spring, which sped up the crop’s development and subsequent harvest.

The warm spring is expected to bring above-average yields for Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma, but official numbers will be released July 11.

Hot, dry winds in late spring in parts of western Kansas and eastern Colorado didn’t hurt the crop as much as some scouts had feared. But the crops in some areas had to battle stripe rust and other insects. Stripe rust was widespread this year and the use of fungicides followed, according to experts. Some farmers expressed concerns over varieties that were supposed to have resistance to stripe rust.

“The rust is outrunning us,” John Fenderson, a commercial manager with the WestBred seed company, told the

“I think you are going to see more wheats that don’t have total resistance to these diseases that change so fast,” Jim Shroyer, Kansas State University’s crop production specialist said. “They’ll have moderate to intermediate resistance instead, which may be high enough that you don’t have to spray every year.”

Although stripe rust mainly affected parts of Kansas, Colorado faced more problems with pests such as brown wheat mite, and wheat stem sawfly.

Wheat stem sawfly is a relatively new problem that has plagued spring wheat in northern states for at least a century, according to Frank Peairs, a CSU entomologist widely known for his previous work studying the Russian wheat aphid. Sawfly larvae feed within the stem, hollowing it out and potentially causing it to break over, diminishing yields by 15 to 20 percent and making the crop more difficult to harvest, he said.

“It’s on the move,” said Darrell Hanavan, executive director of Colorado Wheat. “It’s probably not at economic levels yet in a lot of places, but it’s here to stay, and it’s not going away.”

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