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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Grim outlook for wheat crop

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  • It didn’t matter which variety of wheat was being described at the Pratt County Wheat Variety Plot Tour, two things were certain: Every variety was very short and every variety was not going to make much wheat.
    The problem was all too obvious. The area has only received about 24 percent of the normal rainfall it should receive in the first third of the year.
    The test plot was located on NE 30th Street about 2.25 miles east of U.S. 281. David and Jesse Blasi provided and planted the test plot. About 80 area farmers attended the event that provided a variety of descriptions of strengths and weaknesses of each of the 26 varieties of wheat in the test plot.
    Jesse Blasi said no fertilizer was used on the test plot and it had 2.5 inches of rain before the wheat was out of the ground and that was all the rain it had.
    As John Fenderson, commercial manager for WestBred wheat varieties and Jim Shroyer, Extension Crops and Soils Specialist described each variety of wheat, some varieties were more suited for this area and others did well further to the west and north.
    Some had better disease resistance and some tolerated drought better than others. But the most obvious problem with all the variety samples and with wheat in general across the state is a serious lack of rain.
    Most of the varieties were already headed out and were only about boot top high. A year ago when Shroyer was describing the wheat plot, he could easily touch the wheat heads just by reaching out his hands.
    The test plot was surrounded with cedar variety and it had been fertilized and looked better than the test plots but it still wasn’t very thick. It was just a little taller than the test plot.
    No matter if it was the test plot or the wheat around it, the outcome is going to be the same. Dryland wheat isn’t going to make much this year.
    “We’ll have to mark this year up to experience,” Shroyer said. “This is a speed bump in the road”
    Shroyer wouldn’t speculate which variety or varieties had the best chance of producing the best yield because nothing was going to produce much this year.
    Several things worked against the crop this year. The biggest problem was a lack of moisture plus a late freeze and not enough heat units soon enough then too much heat at the wrong time. The wheat started growing and quickly ran out of subsoil moisture.
    Shroyer looked at a flag leaf on a plant and it was very small. It was not producing photosynthesis, he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Without photosynthesis, the plant can’t convert sunlight into energy the plant can use.
    A couple of weeks ago, the wheat crop was several weeks behind in development. Now, the crop is several weeks ahead. It was a seven-week turn around in just a couple of weeks, said Daryl Strouts, President of the Kansas Wheat Alliance.
    About the only good thing that has come from the lack of moisture is that Kansas is showing almost no wheat disease because the diseases need moisture to grow, said Erick DeWolf, KSU Extension plant pathologist.
    Some diseases get their start in Texas and Oklahoma and then make their way north to Kansas but the drought has hit hard to the south and the diseases stalled out before getting to Kansas.
    “I haven’t seen leaf rust or stripe rust in Kansas,” DeWolf said.
    Even though the 2014 crop is still green, DeWolf said the short crop this year could cause a volunteer wheat problem in for the 2015 crop.
    With volunteer wheat comes a problem with streak mosaic. Farmers will need to keep the volunteer worked down to help reduce the mosaic risk. If a farmer chooses to spray the volunteer they need to be careful planting too soon after spraying or it will damage the new wheat.
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