SHAWN CONLEY Photo By Ray Mueller
Unusual weather marks year for small grains crops
Despite a strange and unusual growing season, involving the weather, plant disease, and insects, some impressive yields are still expected in the state’s winter wheat plots and in many fields to be harvested in the coming weeks.
University of Wisconsin Extension Service small grains and soybean specialist Shawn Conley shared this information with attendees at the annual small grains update meeting at Kolbe Seed Farms.
Unlike similar winter wheat plots at Arlington, Janesville, and Lancaster, Conley reported that the 82 varieties in the plot here were uniformly free of disease, no fungicide had been applied, and some varieties in the plot were likely to yield the equivalent of 100 bushels per acre.
He noted that only treatment at the Kolbe Seed Farms plot this year was the application of 90 pounds of nitrogen (as urea) per acre.
Given the lack of potential comparison between the varieties on susceptibility to or resistance to various diseases, Conley invited the 30 attendees at the June 26 session to look for differences between the amount of straw, tillering, and stage of maturity.
He pointed out that significant differences were evident in maturity but he expects the plot here will be harvested on July 9 or 10.
Among the varieties in the plot here, the seed companies with greatest representation are Partners in Production (PIP), Legacy Seeds, Pro Seed Genetics, Pioneer, Croplan Genetics, Syngenta, FS Seeds, Dyna-Grow, Jung, Direct, Diener, and AgriMAXX.
Public varieties include three experimentals from the University of Virginia along with such well-known standards as Kaskaskia, Hopewell, and Sunburst.
One difference that Conley cited was the greater height — by six to eight inches — of the same varieties in the plot at Arlington despite the minimal amount of rainfall in the southern third of Wisconsin since the first week of May.
Most of the varieties here, with no lodging, stood at heights of 32 to 36 inches. The seeding rate in the plots is 1.5 million seeds per acre.
In his review of the Arlington plot earlier in the day, Conley found that the kernel moisture was running at 20 percent, test weights were as high as 61 pounds, and some yields of 100 bushels were likely despite the absence of rain in recent weeks.
For the four plots overall, he expects potential yield ranges of 60 to 120 bushels among the varieties and a likely loss of popularity for some varieties because of plant diseases.
This year’s disease cycle started early in the southern part of Wisconsin because of the early breaking of dormancy and new growth prompted by the record high temperatures in March, Conley observed.
The onset of powdery mildew prompted many growers to apply a fungicide and the treatment had to be repeated in some cases because the fungicide ingredients are effective for only up to three weeks, he stated.
In addition to the mildew, stripe rust struck later at Arlington, prompting a fungicide treatment. Seed company representatives reported that stripe rust also hit winter wheat from Door County and southward along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Regarding the fungicide treatments, Conley cautioned growers not to be swayed by any claims by product providers that those applications played a role in preventing head scab this year — it was not a part of the 2012 disease picture.
He noted that the combination of the timing of nitrogen applications and late April freezes led to many instances of leaf burn.
Because the harvesting of winter wheat is likely to occur two to three weeks earlier than normal this year, Conley discussed the possibility of double cropping with a late planting of soybeans.
He emphasized, however, that this should be tried only if there is sufficient soil moisture at the time of planting to germinate the soybean seed.
Due to the concern about having adequate moisture, Conley said that the soybeans should be planted only with a no-till drill (rent one if necessary).
He added that the planting population should be higher — about 200,000 seeds per acre — than for the spring planting of soybeans.
To anyone planning to double crop with soybeans, Conley also advises leaving about six inches of wheat stubble in order to stimulate higher foliage growth of the soybeans, thereby having a great majority of the pods high enough for combine cutterbars.
He said the maturity of the soybeans chosen for the double cropping should have a rating of only .1 to .2 below those ordinarily grown in the area.
With a double cropped soybeans, Conley tells growers not to expect yields of much over 20 bushels per acre from an early July planting.
But with the possibility that cash prices for soybeans will top $15 per bushel if hot and dry weather continues to lower the prospects for yields in the Upper Midwest this summer, he notes that even a yield at only about one-half of the average for a full season crop can be profitable.
In addition to the possibility of double cropping, an unusual phenomenon in 2012 was the arrival of huge and record high numbers of aster leafhoppers, starting in March, Conley pointed out.
Because the insect is a vector of aster yellow, a phytoplasm disease, the results were devastating for oats crops in the southern part of Wisconsin, he indicated.
The infected oats prematurely turned yellow and brown.
As a result, many growers harvested their crop as forage instead and, fortunately, that feed does not contain any mycotoxin or other pathogen as a result of infection caused by the aster leafhoppers, Conley explained.
Oats as a fall forage crop
Farmers who would otherwise going into the winter with a short supply of forage because of the lack of rain during the latter part of spring and into the early summer can consider growing oats as a fall forage crop, Conley remarked. “Oats is a good fall rescue forage.”
As part of his activities since he has been given the additional assignment of being the Extension Service’s oats breeder, Conley is overseeing several experimental varieties of the small grain in the plot here. He noted that one very promising variety among them is Betagene, an oats very suitable for making oatmeal and that promises increases of up to 20 percent in yield along with very good test weights.
Conley is anticipating release of Betagene oats in 2014. He said one complicating factor is the obtaining of Plant Variety Protection status so claims to rights for it are not exercised by parties in Canada.
In general, the breeding of oats continue to decline in the United States, Conley observed. He noted the pending demise of the program in Minnesota, leaving only Purdue University, Illinois, Virginia, Idaho, and Wisconsin with active ventures.
To a question about growing winter barley as a malting product for breweries, Conley said the interest in doing so in Wisconsin and surrounding states has waned since a change in ownership and interest at the major brewery, which was considering the purchase of that grain.
He noted that Oregon State University is the leader in breeding of winter barley varieties.