By JIM MAURER
Farmers in the region aren’t planting as much wheat as in years past, but those who did enjoyed “a good harvest” this month with strong yields and no plant disease, reports Ed Lentz, agriculture/natural resources educator for Ohio State University Extension.
The average yield in Hancock County wheat fields was 73 to 75 bushels per acre, he said. Last year, the average was 66 bushels per acre, and it was 73 bushels in 2012.
Lentz said the range was from 55 bushels to 100 bushels an acre this year throughout Hancock County, according to farmers who have been in contact with him. The range was 40 to 85 bushels last year.
“It was my best crop ever,” said Gary Wilson, Hancock County’s former Extension agent, who had an average of 89.5 bushels per acre on about 23 acres in what he called a “marginal field.”
There were no disease problems this year, and grain fill and quality were both good, Wilson said. There were periods of “pounding rains” in the southern part of the county, where he lives, while other parts of the county did not see the same conditions.
Average yields are based on the harvest from an entire field, Lentz said, which may contain “water holes,” or low ground where water may pool. In those areas there can be zero yield, which lowers the average, Lentz said.
In some cases, wheat plants were killed this year by snow melt or standing water on fields from rain.
There was a light, steady rain at the end of June before harvest, but it did not seem to hurt the crop.
“Every rain after maturity means you’re taking a risk on quality and test weight,” Lentz said. “The farmer is taking a risk by not harvesting it and instead letting it dry down in the field. So that’s a decision they have (to make).”
If it gets too dry, there is a risk of losses from grain shattering during a windy storm, he said.
But there were not those problems this year.
A majority of the area’s wheat was harvested the weekend after July 4 and during the following week, he said. “I would say that’s kind of right on the mark,” as harvest is typically underway by July 1.
Some farmers plant soybeans immediately after harvesting a wheat field, a practice known as “double-cropping.” But for the second straight year, there were not a lot of double-crop beans planted this year, Lentz said.
The quality of harvested wheat was “good” this year, according to Lentz and personnel at two area grain elevators. No major disease problems were reported, or other issues which would cause the farmer to receive a lower price because of the crop’s condition.
Wheat stalks were shorter than normal this year, which meant less wheat straw could be baled after the harvest, Lentz said.
The wheat was slow “greening up” this year, Lentz said. “Green up” was the first week of April, about a month later than the normal date of March 10. He said the colder winter and spring caused the delay.
Earlier green up generates taller plants, more straw, and potential for higher yields, he said.
Area grain elevators reported the average moisture content of harvested wheat this year was about 14-15 percent and average test weight was 58-59 pounds per bushel. There is a drying charge at elevators for wheat above 13.5 percent moisture content.
Too much moisture causes deterioration of the crop quality and farmers receive a discounted price. There is also a discount if the crop’s test weight is below 58 pounds per bushel.
Heritage Cooperative, Arlington, reported average moisture content of 15 percent and average test weight of 58.9 pounds per bushel. Average yields in the southern portion of the county were reported to be 75 bushels per acre with a range of 60 to 100 bushels.
Legacy Cooperative, Findlay, reported average moisture content of 14.5 percent and average test weight of 58.5 pounds per bushel. Average yields in the eastern, western and northern portions of the county were 75 to 80 bushels per acre with a range of 60 to 100 bushels.
The cash price for wheat, and other crops, is falling. On July 7, the first business day after the July 4 holiday, the wheat price was $5.95 per bushel. On July 5, 2013, the price was $6.46 and on July 5, 2012, the price was $8.06.
There have been fewer acres of wheat planted in recent years in Hancock County, with 27,700 acres planted and 26,700 harvested in 2013; and 20,900 acres planted and 18,100 harvested in 2012.
Acreage figures for this year are not yet available.
In previous years, the average of harvested acres had been more than 40,000 acres.
Wheat is a world crop, Lentz said. It is grown in many countries, so there is easier availability if one area suffers drought or disaster. In contrast, the U.S. is the major world provider of corn, and the U.S. and Brazil are the main providers of soybeans.
Whether wheat acres will continue to decline depends on if farmers can make more profit from growing soybeans and corn, he said.
Another factor is an increase in the cost of renting farmland, he said. Farmers who rent land will plant the crop which provides the highest revenue.
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