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2015-2016 Wheat Crop Overview

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David Marburger

David Marburger

Since April 2016, I have served as the Small Grains Extension Specialist at Oklahoma State University. My research and extension efforts focus on delivering science-based recommendations in order to increase small grains production and profitability for stakeholders throughout Oklahoma and the southern Great Plains.

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This is article is authored by Dr. David Marburger, Dr. Jeff Edwards, Dr. Brett Carver, Robert Calhoun, Dr. Tracy Beedy, and Dr. Bob Hunger

 

As of right now, the 2015-2016 Oklahoma wheat production is estimated to be approximately 132 million bushels, which is about 34% greater than our 2015 production (Table 1) and 277% greater than production in 2014. Although the estimated harvested acres is lower than 2015, the statewide average yield is projected at 40 bu/ac, and this is a 14 bu/ac (54%) increase compared to 2015 (Table 1). Based on these projections, this would be the largest wheat production since 2012, but the average yield would be a new state record.

 

Table 1. Oklahoma wheat production for 2015 and 2016 as estimated by USDA NASS, July 2016
2015 2016
Harvested Acres 3.7 million 3.3 million
Yield (bu/ac) 26 40
Total bushels 98.8 million 132 million

 

The 2015-2016 wheat growing season was unlike most years in Oklahoma, characterized by periods of plentiful rainfall and near optimal growing conditions at critical times. Most wheat was sown into soil with adequate moisture, allowing it to emerge rapidly. The sufficient rainfall and mild temperatures allowed for good fall growth and bumper forage yields. In fact, plants in many non-grazed fields were abnormally large and phenologically advanced going into winter, and there was some concern about winter-kill. With mild temperatures continuing into the winter months, this concern proved to be largely unfounded, and most plants moved to spring green-up without injury.

Similar to 2014 and 2015, January and February were dry months for the Southern Great Plains, and the ample forage growth quickly wicked moisture from the soil. As the wheat crop was coming out of dormancy, there was much concern that the dry conditions would quickly reduce yield potential. Fortunately, rain fell during early- to mid-March as the crop was greening up. This also helped provide grazed wheat the extra boost it needed to recover from grazing injury.

As the wheat crop progressed from green-up to flowering, rain continued to fall, but warmer than normal temperatures moved the crop along quickly, and at the time, most thought harvest would come earlier than normal. As we transitioned into grain fill, temperatures stayed at more ideal levels, favoring kernel filling.

Most wheat was mature in southwestern Oklahoma and in the central part of the state by the end of the May. Widespread rainfall at the end of May delayed most producers from beginning harvest until the first week in June. Dry weather during June allowed much of the wheat crop to be harvested quickly. Unfortunately, some areas of southwestern Oklahoma were plagued by regular and heavy rainfall events that delayed harvest towards the end of the month. Overall, harvest was pretty well wrapped up in the state by the end of June.

Yields throughout Oklahoma were very good overall, with field averages of 30 to 60 bu/ac being the norm. Field averages in the 60 to 90 bu/ac range were not uncommon, and there were even isolated cases of fields averaging over 100 bu/ac. Some producers expressed they will never see their yields this high again in their lifetime, and let’s hope they are wrong! Test weights throughout harvest remained at or above 60 lb/bu for early-harvested fields and did not drop much below the upper 50’s towards the end of harvest. This was a much welcomed change from the low test weights of 2015.

Other than bird cherry oat aphids and wheat curl mites, there were few widespread insect problems in 2015-2016. Aphids were not really on the radar screen of most producers until numbers ballooned in mid-March. As a result, it was not hard to find Barley Yellow Dwarf (BYD) as flag leaves and heads started to emerge. While there was quite a bit of purpling associated with BYD, there was not as much stunting as sometimes observed with early-season transmission of the virus. Wheat Streak Mosaic (WSM) was not as wide spread as in 2015, but it was still a significant issue for many producers in 2016. The favorable growing conditions likely reduced the impact of both BYD and WSM, and yield reductions were not as severe as they might have been in a more drought stressed environment.

Similar to 2015, stripe rust was the major foliar disease impacting wheat production in 2016. The devastation caused by the 2015 stripe rust epidemic had many producers more open to the idea of foliar fungicide application to susceptible varieties. Many fields throughout the state received at least one fungicide application, and anecdotal evidence from agricultural retailers indicates that Oklahoma wheat acres treated with a foliar fungicide in 2016 was more than double that treated in 2015. Variety trial results from Apache, Chickasha, and Lahoma indicate that producers were well justified in spraying many of these acres. Grain yield of the popular variety Ruby Lee, for example, was increased by 68 bu/ac at Chickasha when treated twice with a foliar fungicide. Our results at Chickasha also show the power of genetic resistance to disease in varieties such as Billings which maintained an 83 bu/ac grain yield without the assistance of a foliar fungicide. In addition to stripe rust, leaf rust was present, but it was at low levels in isolated areas and was not widespread throughout the state.

For information regarding the 2015-2016 OSU Wheat Performance Trials, visit the home page of wheat.okstate.edu. Yield results from all individual locations, as well as a two-page summary of all locations, are posted. For those of you also also interested in the fall forage variety trial information, you can find that here: http://wheat.okstate.edu/variety-testing/forage-yield.


1 Comment

  1. Van Schuermann says:

    Thank you Jeff for the very concise and accurate assessment of our 2015-16 wheat crop.

    Van

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