Wheat harvest, storms don’t mix

Crops are doing well and are further along in their development compared to most years.
Farmers have started to harvest wheat and will continue for the next couple of weeks.
An extended rainy period, or severe storms, would be bad for the wheat crop. We had that problem last year, when wet weather during the first part of July delayed harvest until the latter part of the month.
The quality of wheat can deteriorate quickly when allowed to stand after the grain has matured. Wet fields are the primary cause for not harvesting the grain on time.
Rain on mature grain may allow kernels to sprout in the heads before harvest. Potential for sprouting varies among wheat varieties.
White wheat varieties are more prone to sprouting than the red. Most farmers in our area, as well as elsewhere in Ohio, grow red wheat varieties. However, Michigan has significant acreage in white wheat.
Sprouting affects grain quality, which lowers test weight. Test weight is one factor that determines what a farmer will receive for his grain at the elevator.
Mold is another problem that may result from rain-delayed harvest. To fungi, mature wheat heads are nothing more than dead plant tissue ready to be colonized.
Under warm, wet conditions, saprophytic fungi, and even fungi known to cause diseases such as wheat scab, readily colonize wheat heads, resulting in a dark moldy cast over the heads and straw. This problem is particularly severe on lodged wheat.
In general, the growth of blackish saprophytic molds on the surface of the grain usually does not affect the grain. However, the growth of pathogens, usually whitish or pinkish mold, could result in low test weights and poor grain quality.
In particular, in those fields with head scab, molds may produce toxins such as vomitoxin, leading to further grain quality reduction.
Storms at harvest time may cause mature grain to shatter, a condition where the seed literally falls out of wheat heads onto the ground.
This happened last year when strong windstorms came through the area in early July, costing many farmers a yield loss of up to 20 percent.
Storms may also affect the corn and soybean crops.
Last year, farmers had some corn lodge and lost some corn plants from green snap during the same storm.
Corn has time to recover from lodging this time of year, but, if stalks break below the ear, that plant will be lost. In general, most of the corn this year is in very good condition, so let’s hope for no storms.
Most farmers are pleased if corn is knee-high at the Fourth of July, but most of our fields are much taller.
Many fields will be tasseling in the next few weeks. The yield potential has been determined by the time corn plants tassel.
Good weather conditions will be necessary for successful pollination. That means moisture and warm conditions, not hot and dry. If pollination occurs in our area without any problems, farmers have the potential for excellent yields.
Though corn and wheat are looking good in the area, soybeans have had more challenges. Soybeans have been affected several times by heavy rain.
However, soybean plants can adjust to thinner stands by producing more branches per plant. Unlike corn, the plants also have an extended period to produce new flowers if weather conditions are poor during initial flowering.
Soybeans have just begun to flower. Proper root development is critical at this time to be able to fix nitrogen later for bean development and to withstand late season dry periods.
An extended period of wet soils at this time will diminish root development, affecting the ability of soybean plants to develop pods and beans during August.
The extended wet period during the first part of July last year was the primary cause of lower soybean yields.
Too much water early in the growing season creates most of the lower-yielding problems in fields, regardless of the crop. That is why tile, subsurface drainage systems, is so important for crop production in our area.
Our crops are doing very well. Future weather events will determine whether we have excellent or average yields.
Farmers need every extra bushel this year since grain prices have been dropping and may continue to drop as the season progresses. However, most farmers should be pleased with the development of the current crop.
Lentz is extension educator for agriculture and natural resources for The Ohio State University Extension Service in Hancock County. He can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at lentz.38@osu.edu.
Lentz can be heard with Vaun Wickerham on weekdays at 6:35 a.m. on WFIN, at 5:43 a.m. on WKXA-FM, and at 5:28 a.m. at 106.3 The Fox.

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