Much wheat unlikely to make a crop

Feb 22, 2013
by WLJ

Despite recent rains that greened up much of the wheat crop, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist is expecting a below-normal crop this year.

“There were lots of troubles with stand establishment and drought through the fall and winter,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head. “Stands are skimpy and weak.”

There are parts of the state where wheat does look good, Miller said, but big parts of the Rolling Plains and the western/northern parts of the High Plains may not make a crop.

North and east of Dallas, it’s a different story, he said.

“From the Metroplex north and east, it looks like a pretty darn good crop,” he said. “There was some segregation, by which I mean, part of the stand coming up in November and part coming up in January. But overall, that’s the best looking wheat in the state, northern Blacklands, northeast part of the state.”

For other areas, the future of wheat depends upon the future of rains.

The projections are for above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation for the spring, with chances for either above- or below-average summer precipitation a coin flip, Miller said.

“For the temperatures, it’s not a coin flip, and higher temperatures mean there will be need for above-average precipitation because of higher evapotranspiration rates,” he said.

In the South Plains, there was a “substantial acreage” of wheat planted because of the high grain prices, said Dr. Calvin Trostle, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Lubbock.

There’s also a lot of acres planted with wheat purely for a cover crop to prevent wind erosion, and despite light planting rates, there are some producers who have decided to try for grain harvest, according to Trostle.

“I looked at one of those fields that a farmer wanted to take for grain and wondered whether to increase irrigation and top dress (with nitrogen),” Trostle said. “He had a good wheat variety, the planting date was decent in mid-November, it had already tillered a little bit, and I said, ‘yes, I don’t think your yield potential is down that much.’ “That gives you a picture of how much folks would like to take a wheat crop to grain,” Trostle said.

There are a lot of other considerations that have to be made, such as available irrigation water, and, of course, future rains, he said.

But a lot of wheat is his area is “just hanging on,” and needs a good rain.

“You can have wheat that doesn’t look very good, but we can pick up a rain in March and then again in April and be very surprised of how productive it can be,” Trostle said.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about 75 percent of the state remained under severe to extreme drought.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at drought/.— Robert Burns, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension