With the drought conditions across the southern High Plains last fall, many wheat growers dusted in their crops with a prayer. From the conditions seen on the Small Grain Solutions tour April 2 to 4, it looked like those prayers were answered. We followed Brian Ganske and Jennifer Collins, John Deere Solution Specialists, as they scouted fields near Clinton, Okla., Dodge City and Salina, Kan.
On the whole, the winter wheat looked about three weeks or so away from harvest just north of Clinton in the Arapahoe area. The earliest many people in this region have seen it in a long time. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Crop Progress Report for April 8 had 41 percent of Oklahoma’s wheat crop already headed out, bringing harvest into May for parts of the state. But that’s if growers can avoid April severe weather.
The tour visited one field of Duster east of Arapahoe that showed some evidence of drought. The terraces were lush and green, but the compaction from cattle grazing was starting to burn up the wheat, Ganske said. While the tour was in the field Ganske attempted to take a soil moisture reading and the ground was so compacted and dry that the probe wouldn’t go into the ground.
There were some early weeds, but for the most part, with some exceptions, farmers got out there early and controlled them, Ganske said.
There was some rust out in the fields, several fields were beginning to head out, and farmers were applying fungicide. It’s a good idea with moisture in the canopy to take a look at those fields and get on top of any fungicide applications you may need to do, Ganske told the audience.
One bright spot to the day—literally—were the many fields of winter canola dotting the Clinton area. Roundup Ready canola helps farmers control their feral rye problem, and he advised others in the region to look at the crop to help with weed issues.
This fall was dry and farmers like Butch Irsik, who farms with his brother and sister north of Ingalls, had to dust in their winter wheat, all with the hope that spring rains would make grain.
As the tour made its way through muddy roads, it stopped at one dryland corner where you could easily see what came up early and what came up later this spring with the more recent timely mositure. It'll probably be a few weeks behind, so it's an issue we'll have to deal with this year, Ganske, said.
With the moisture, some wheat was going down, Ganske observed, and that will be another issue that wheat farmers should monitor. Some farmers, like Irsik, are trying out growth regulators to try to keep their wheat from getting so rank, Ganske said. "I'm guessing that that wheat had never seen so much moisture at one time in its life." he added.
Overall Ganske said he was impressed with the wheat in this area. This was some of the best wheat he'd seen in the area in quite some time and if farmers can keep Mother Nature from destroying it they should have a good wheat crop.
A steady rain on the third day of the Small Grain Solutions prevented any actual wheat field inspections, however we were able to meet with Joe Kejr, a wheat farmers from Brookville, Kan. The wheat crop is so far ahead of normal this year that Kejr wondered if wheat harvest would interfere with spring planting.
Kejr farms land from Minneapolis, Kan., to McPherson. Nearly all of the wheat was in the flag leaf stage by the first week of April and a few plants had headed out. Normally harvest begins six weeks after the plants head out.
“I have never harvested wheat in May before,” Kejr said.
Kejr planted several different varieties this year including Armour, Art, Everest, and Post Rock. Kejr buys certified seed wheat every year and has not used bin run seed for several years. He has planted some blends in the past but not this year.
Last year Kejr said they were stress dry but the crop yields were about average. He had a few fields that were pretty good considering the conditions and one field even had a yield of 70 bushels per acre.
All of his wheat is grown no-till. He has some wheat following wheat and some wheat following soybeans. Some years disease can be an issue with wheat following wheat, he said, but last year the second year wheat did much better than other fields. His crop rotation is generally two years of wheat, one year of corn or milo, one year of soybeans and then back to wheat. After the second year of wheat they will double crop soybeans.
It was the first week of April and Kejr said they had already planted their first field of corn. He said the soil was warm enough and this gave them a chance to see if their planting equipment was set up properly.
“Farming is a lot more intense than it used to be,” Kejr said. “We use the equipment more than we used to, take better care of the ground than we used to and raise better crops than we used to.” His fertility program begins with dry fertilizer that includes 10 units of sulfur put on with the air seeder at planting. Then he will topdress the crop and put another application of nitrogen on with the weed control.
“It does give us the opportunity to look at the crop and see what it needs,” Kejr said. Kejr has his own combines and does the harvest himself.
“That is the part of the year we really like,” Kejr said. “It is a family thing that brings everyone back to the farm.”
It was early in the season but Kejr said their wheat crop looked great so far. Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304, or by email at email@example.com.