BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Like a boxer ducking at just the right
time when his opponent throws a few jabs, the Illinois wheat crop has avoided
potential weather-related disaster over the past two years.
A severe drought in 2012 that baked the corn and soybean
crops and persistent rains earlier this year that delayed planting of corn and
beans haven’t spelled trouble for wheat.
“We really got lucky this year,” said University of Illinois
Extension crop production specialist Emerson Nafziger, who discussed the wheat
crop at an annual Southern Illinois University field day here.
Because many farmers were forced to abandon corn crops due
to the severe drought last fall, much more wheat than normal followed corn and
was put into the ground well before the so-called fly-free date of early
“We planted some of our wheat way earlier than we typically
do. And we got away with that,” Nafziger said. “And another bullet we dodged
with the crop in southern Illinois is it was able to get its flowering in
between deluges of rain, and we didn’t get much head scab.
“Normally, if you tell me that you had 30 inches of rain
here from April through June at Belleville, I’d say, ‘There goes that wheat
crop. It’s not going to yield anything.’ And it averaged 82 (bushels per acre)
in our variety trial which just got harvested.
“We always say wet springs can be OK for corn and soybeans
if you get them planted on time, but they are death on wheat. And that sure
didn’t happen this year. It’s all a little bit complicated with the fall we had.
The wheat went into dormancy just OK. It stayed cool. We didn’t get the warm-ups
like we usually do.
“We’ve seen this crop deteriorate before, from being the
best looking crop to the worst crop. But that didn’t happen this year.”
The statewide yield estimate is about 65 bushels per acre.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, 88 percent of wheat
in Illinois was harvested as of July 14. That compares to 100 percent last year
and a five-year average of 92 percent.
A number of fields in southern Illinois yielded more than
100 bushels an acre, a rare accomplishment.
“We’ve seen that sometimes before, but it’s more often in
central and northern Illinois, where we don’t grow much wheat,” Nafziger said.
“We’ve had 100-plus bushels several times in the state, but not very often in
the far southern part of the state. This year that’s going to be
A university variety trial in Belleville that included 69
varieties yielded an average of 81.9 bushels per acre this season.
In fields across the state, there didn’t appear to be much
penalty for those planting wheat after corn, according to Nafziger.
“There are tradeoffs,” he said. “We knew there was a lot (of
nitrogen after the corn crop) there and were finding some pretty high numbers of
nitrates there, both fertilizer and organic matter. We had probably enough
nitrogen in many of these fields to grow the whole wheat crop.
“Well, it rained in the spring, and a lot of guys went back
and put full rates on this spring. Some of the wheat lodged pretty badly. In
general, the wheat was well supplied with nitrogen.
“Most of our varieties are bred to stand pretty well. We can
get enough nitrogen on to maximize the yield without having lodging in our wheat
crop. This last year, one of the reports I had in southern end of Illinois was
that wheat that was standing yielded about 115, and the wheat that was flat
yielded only about 100. Wheat crop failure! So it didn’t hurt it very much this