Wheat harvest with combine

After planting delays and a wet spring, this year's wheat crop was better than expected in a lot of places, although it was not a bin buster. 

After an extremely wet spring, much of Missouri’s wheat crop still turned out better than expected, even if it was not a bumper crop.

James Martin, merchandiser for NutraAg LLC in Versailles, Missouri, says the mill saw some decent test weights.

“We had an average test weight of 57.8, which is higher than what we expected with our wet spring,” he says. “To have that average means we’re taking in some 60-pound wheat. That’s hard to do in central Missouri.”

Martin says growers and buyers in his area were concerned vomitoxin would be a major issue, but other than a field or two, he says it was not a widespread problem.

“We were really bracing for it,” he says. “It largely was not a problem for our customers.”

Yields in Martin’s area were decent given the conditions.

“Most farmers reported that they were happy with it,” he says. “It wasn’t a bumper crop by any means.”

The weather mostly cooperated during the wheat harvest.

“We had nice little windows to get wheat harvested,” Martin says. “It went off fast.”

One difference with this year’s wheat harvest were below-normal yields.

“Overall, central Missouri did not have the wheat crop that was normal,” Martin says. “We took in 38% of the wheat that we would’ve taken in four or five years ago.”

This was due to a 35% drop in wheat acres, he says. This was a statewide trend and due to a few factors.

“Last fall’s weather wasn’t good for getting wheat planted,” Martin says. “Wheat prices have been fairly lackluster for the last few years.”

However, Martin says prices have gone up this summer, and they were paying around $5 a bushel ahead of harvest. He says other crops, such as soybeans, have become less profitable with the ongoing trade disputes, which could impact planting decisions going forward.

One other factor that affected wheat acres was the forage shortage last fall and through the winter, Martin says. Some producers green-chopped wheat to feed to livestock.

“There were a lot of combined pressures that took wheat acres down,” he says.

Greg Luce, grain crops specialist for University of Missouri Extension, says there was a good deal of variety among wheat yields this year because of the timing of planting and the very wet spring.

“It’s been quite variable,” he says. “The fall was really difficult for a lot of people to get wheat in the ground. There were some very good yields in areas.”

Luce says the MU wheat variety testing shows the wide disparity in yields. Some central Missouri test locations had top-yielding varieties in the high 70s or low 80s, but also some yielding in the low 40s. He says that variety in yields is not uncommon.

The top yields anywhere were at the Charleston test site in southeast Missouri at 88 bu./acre.

“Usually there’s somewhere that hits 90-plus bushels at some location,” Luce says. “But these are not untypical yields. They’re reasonable yields.”

He says test weights were fairly average across the state, although some were “quite good.”

Scab was a challenge for Missouri wheat growers this year.

“Growers were using the fungicides for scab in a big way,” Luce says. “We did have some locations where scab was significant.”

All in all, Luce says disease issues were not as bad as growers feared initially.

“There really wasn’t a lot of other foliar disease, which was surprising,” he says.

The weather led to some timing of planting and stand issues in wheat.

“Wet years are typically not good for wheat,” Luce says. “We had a lot of concern that wheat might not be good, because of the season and the lateness of planting.”

Overall, Martin says the wheat crop was impressive given the conditions.

“The quality, it wasn’t a disaster,” he says. “It was better than expected.”

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Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.