Flint on Crops: Wheat Planting Time, Blight Chance Low

    Fusarium head blight in wheat.

    The 2015 wheat crop in this area was probably one of the worst we have seen in the last twenty five years or more. Had there been a way for the farmers who grew the crop prior to that time to see it they might have considered it business as usual because the crop was severely damaged disease.

    Fusarium head blight and other diseases were much more common in that earlier time before the advent of improved varieties. Neither were there fungicides that might have been applied to reduce the level of damage caused by disease.

    We were caught off-guard by Fusarium head blight last spring even though we probably should have anticipated problems connected with the extremely wet spring that caused stresses connected with saturated roots, poor utilization of soil nutrients, and almost daily overcast and damp field conditions.

    You might say that we had the “perfect storm” for plant disease and the one crop which was growing in the field at the time was wheat. I expect a lot of wheat growers felt like they had done something wrong when fields that should have yielded at least 50 bushels per acre produced around 30 and much less in some of the worst cases.

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    The fact is that we should go ahead and plant wheat in situations where it fits. I won’t attempt to get into that part of the story here, but the several situations in which growers should consider   planting the crop again are just like they have been through recent years. The market price for wheat is fairly close to where it was about this time last year and that’s a lot more than can be said for the other crops we grow.

    We do at least have an advantage this year since we now have detailed ratings for varietal susceptibility to Fusarium head blight. We can now select a variety that had a low rating for this devastating disease just in case it makes a second attempt at ruining the crop next spring.

    I was shocked when I saw this chart that was prepared by Dr. Tom Allen, Extension Plant Pathologist at the Delta Research and Extension Center. Many of the varieties we have planted in recent years had some of the highest ratings. His work was included in the October edition of the Mississippi Crop Situation which is produced by the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

    As Dr. Allen pointed out in the summary of this work that Fusarium head blight is greatly influenced by environmental conditions at the time of flowering and pollination. Last spring the conditions for development of the disease were just right. We commonly see this disease at low levels, but last spring it was horrible.

    Bottom line is that the probability is low for having a second year when the conditions are ideal for this disease. My suggestion is that growers consult Dr. Allen’s ratings and avoid planting varieties that had high incidence of the disease.

    This is the time we shoot for every year for beginning the planting of wheat. We wait until about now to plant so that the crop will not get too far along before it goes into dormancy from cold weather. This way the crop will green up a little later next spring and hopefully avoid the late freezes that might damage the formation of heads and seeds.

    Call us if you need further information on varieties, planting rates, fertilization, weed control, and other issues connected with wheat.

    Thanks for your time.



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