The spring of 2017 has created many challenges for winter wheat growers. As wheat harvest begins across the eastern Corn Belt, producers should keep an eye out for potential problems that may cause yield loss and impact grain quality. Growers have observed the development of diseases such as powdery mildew and Fusarium head blight (scab). Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus has also been present in some fields, a result of feeding by aphids carrying the virus. Due to warmer-than-normal weather in late winter/early spring, wheat development has been 2 to 3 weeks ahead of normal and growers should expect an early harvest. In areas where head blight has developed, growers should adjust combines properly clean out lighter grains impacted by scab. According to this University of Missouri article, research performed by the Ohio State University showed that adjust fan speeds between 1,375 and 1,475 rpm and shutter opening to 3.5 inches resulted in the lowest discounts at elevators due to low test weight, damaged kernels, and mycotoxin levels in grain. Extreme cold weather in March caused freeze damage to wheat heads, which has resulted in blank heads and could significantly impact yields. Wheat producers should walk fields prior to harvest to determine if head scab and/or freeze damage has impacted their wheat and to assess the extent of the damage.
Matt Hutcheson, CCA
Seed Consultants, Inc