Purdue: Indiana wheat harvest looks promising

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Weather conditions during the spring and early summer promoted long grain fill for wheat and are returning high yields for Indiana farmers so far this year, according to a Purdue Extension wheat specialist.

Early in the season, agronomists worried that cool spring temperatures and heavy rainfall would threaten yields, but that didn't turn out to be the case.

The state's wheat harvest began in southwestern Indiana in late June after the Midwest experienced high temperatures that favored drying wheat crops. Northeastern Indiana wheat farmers likely will start harvest in mid-July.

Already this summer some southwestern Indiana growers have reported wheat yields as high as 90-110 bushels per acre. An average statewide bushel-per-acre yield would be in the upper 60s, with higher yields in the southern part of the state than the northern counties.

"The wheat that's been cut looks really good," said Shaun Casteel, Purdue Extension wheat specialist.

The short period of high temperatures helped to advance the delayed wheat to harvest; however, recent cycles of rain are causing greater delays in harvest, Casteel said.

"Many farmers are anxiously waiting to get back into the field to cut the wheat and plant double-crop soybeans," he said. "Some fields are starting to experience preharvest losses due to the heavy rains and wind. In other words, seed is knocked out of the grain head and some plants are driven to the ground."

Farmers with fields along creeks and riverbeds that flooded might expect about 50-bushel yields.

There also have been fewer cases of Fusarium head blight, a disease caused by the fungus Gibberella zeae, in Indiana wheat this year. That is welcome news for wheat farmers because the disease, also known as head scab, can cause serious yield losses. It also can produce mycotoxins, which at high levels can make the grain toxic to livestock and people.

But even with lower head scab incidences, Casteel suggested that as a preharvest precaution farmers look for straw-white wheat heads, which is a sign of the disease.

More information about head scab in Indiana is available in Purdue Extension's Pest and Crop Newsletter at http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/pestcrop/2013/issue12/index.html#scab

Wheat harvest throughout the state likely will wrap up in July - early in the month for southwestern growers and later for farmers in northwestern counties.

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