Although the summer of 2011 was beginning to look a lot like the summer of 2010, when extremely dry conditions in western Nebraska resulted in uneven wheat emergence, late August and September rainfall picked up and good wheat stands were achieved in much of the west.

The winter wheat crop has good color and good size, and it appears to be set to go into the winter months in a healthy condition in the western half of the state, where most of the Nebraska winter wheat crop is grown. However, dry conditions in northeast Nebraska has some wheat struggling for good growth late in the fall.

The November 21 USDA-NASS Nebraska Weather and Crops report shows 79% of the Nebraska winter wheat crop as being in good to excellent condition. This is well above the five-year average of 67% and the best since the fall of 2008. In 2010, just 45% of the Nebraska winter wheat crop was rated good or excellent.

The winter wheat crop in the southern Panhandle looks much better this fall compared to last fall. Timely rains from August through October helped the crop get off to a good start. A year ago, it was very dry in this region and we were going into the winter with thin stands and not much growth. The situation this year is much different. Producers were able to get the crop planted into moist soils and the favorable fall temperatures allowed it to grow this fall. Even later planted wheat looks good for this time of year.

In south central Nebraska in Clay County and along the northern Nuckolls County area, wheat looks surprisingly good overall, despite dry conditions at planting. Most seed appears to have been planted 1-2 inches deep and there appears to be good plant and stand establishment.  Most of these wheat fields have 2-4 tillers going into winter.

Now we will hope for moderate temperatures and good snow cover during the winter months with the hope that the wheat crop can get off to a good start in the spring of 2012. Mother Nature always seems to throw us a curve ball over the winter, but winter wheat typically shows why it is grown on so many acres in the west by shrugging these hardships off and going to work come spring time.