June 12, 2024

Illinois wheat crop making strides

Results of the annual Illinois Wheat Plot Tour, which projected an average weighted yield of 104 bushels per acre, show the state has the potential for another record yielding year.

RED BUD, Ill. — The Illinois winter wheat crop may not top the 2023 record average state yield — but it won’t be far from that, as the recent Illinois Wheat Association yield tour showed.

“I don’t know that we will have the record wheat that we had last year, but certainly I think it’s going to be a really good crop,” said IWA President John Howell, who farms in Monroe and Randolph counties in southeastern Illinois.

Howell took part in the single-day plot tour on May 21 that sent sampling groups to wheat fields throughout the southern part of the state. His group sampled fields in St. Clair, Monroe and Perry counties.

“We found a very uniform crop this go-round. We didn’t see the highs and lows that we’ve seen in the past. I’ve done this tour five or six times and normally, on the tour, we find some fields that are really, really good and we’ll find a couple of fields that are not quite up to par,” he said.

This year, the winter wheat crop, so far, showed itself to be mostly average.

“There weren’t any fields that really fell below standard, but there also weren’t any fields that were just, wow, that’s really thick, amazing-looking wheat,” Howell said.

“I felt like it was all uniformly, really good-looking wheat that was going to be a nice crop to harvest and probably not a record.”

Howell raises corn, full-season and double-crop soybeans and wheat. He said his own wheat is indicative of what his group and others on the tour found.

“Personally, our wheat crop is in really good condition,” he said.

Planting conditions in the fall presented farmers with a good-news, bad-news situation.

“We had a relatively dry fall. It allowed our crop to go in really nicely, no issues there. The crop did struggle a little last fall because it was so dry,” Howell said.

“I would say our crop is one of our better-looking crops as far as evenness and color and everything you would gauge a crop from in the early vegetative stage.”

But ongoing rains in southern Illinois could be the factor that puts the brakes on any record yields.

“From the time the heads started emerging through now, we’ve caught a lot of rainfall. That is not a great recipe for high-yielding wheat,” Howell said.

‘A Very Good Crop’

Matt Wehmeyer, of AgriMAXX Wheat Company and Wehmeyer Seed Company, who also is a member of the IWA board, said weather will be the determining factor now on what Illinois wheat yields will be at harvest.

“We are in the middle of grain fill right now so a cool grain fill will increase yields. Any time we are over 90 degrees, like we were a few weeks ago, it will take a little bit of top end yield off because wheat likes to have cool weather during grain fill,” he said.

“That was one of the reasons we saw the fantastic yields we saw last year, we had a cool grain fill period. As we get into the last little bit of grain fill, if we can remain cool, that’s going to be very helpful for top end yield.”

While Wehmeyer himself wasn’t on the tour, AgriMAXX had representatives on the tour and Wehmeyer said he has been in numerous wheat fields throughout the growing season to check on crop progress and condition.

“From my perspective, I think we have a very good crop. I don’t know if it’s going to be as strong as last year, but it’s going to be a very good crop overall,” he said.

Wehmeyer said he has noticed a few disease and insect issues this year.

“The precipitation during flowering created a little more head scab prevalence throughout the area. I don’t know that it’s at an alarming rate, but it is present,” he said.

“There were isolated areas of barley yellow dwarf virus, which is transmitted via aphids. But I don’t think that’s going to cause widespread concern this year — it will be more regionalized and field specific.”

Illinois winter wheat has been making headlines as yields and acres increase. In 2023, the average Illinois wheat yield was 87 bushels per acre, an increase of 8 bushels over the 2022 state average yield.

Illinois wheat farmers harvested 780,000 acres of winter wheat, which was a 39% increase over 2022 harvested acres.

The May 10 U.S. Department of Agriculture crop production report shows Illinois winter wheat planted acreage estimated at 680,000 acres and the average state winter wheat yield estimated at 83 bushels per acre.

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor