Blow after blow troubled High Plains' wheat crop
This year was a disappointment for most wheat farmers in the Texas Panhandle, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist.
Drought in the fall and through most of the winter and early spring resulted in many dryland fields being plowed up, said Dr. Brent Bean, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Amarillo.
"Conditions were somewhat better north of Amarillo, but good dryland fields were still hard to find," he said. "Even irrigated wheat suffered due to a lack of fall and winter precipitation.
"And our old nemesis, the Russian wheat aphid, also played a major role in reducing wheat yield potential throughout the area," Bean said. "This was probably the worst year for Russian wheat aphid in the last 20 years."
The final weather issue in many fields was damage caused by a late freeze in April, he said. Diseases, in general, were not a major problem in 2009, but wheat streak mosaic and triticum mosaic infection were significant in a few fields.
Bean said lack of adequate fertilization also tended to hurt wheat yield potential, especially in irrigated fields. Nitrogen deficiency symptoms were observed in the fall and early winter in many fields.
In many cases, compost had been applied prior to planting, he said. But the nitrogen released from the compost was not adequate to prevent nitrogen deficiency in the wheat crop. It was also observed, especially in wheat no-tilled behind corn, that fields were deficient in phosphorus.
"Those fields where phosphorus was applied at planting had a much better stand of wheat than in similar fields where no phosphorus was applied," Bean said. "Care should be taken when planting late and under no-till conditions that adequate phosphorus is present."
Bean said variety trials were planted and harvested at five locations around the Texas Panhandle and at the New Mexico State University station near Clovis, N.M. The yield trials are partially funded by the Texas Wheat Producers Board through grower check-off funds.
Four irrigated varieties clearly stood out in this year's trials. Hatcher, Bill Brown, TAM 111 and Dumas averaged more than 58 bushels per acre across the five locations, with Hatcher averaging 69.8 bushels per acre.
Both Hatcher and Bill Brown have Russian wheat aphid resistance, which likely contributed to these two varieties topping the trial, Bean said. This is the first year Bill Brown has been in the Panhandle trials.
"Not only did these four varieties have the highest yield when averaged across locations, but were in the top 25 percent in yield in four of the five sites," he said.