Update: Wheat Condition in the Panhandle

Update: Wheat Condition in the Panhandle

March 6, 2009

The March 20 CropWatch will include a fuller update on wheat green-up and condition in western Nebraska.

Wheat in the Panhandle is greening up after going through one of the thousand deaths it suffers before harvest (see February 11 CropWatch story, Winter Tough on Panhandle Wheat; Quick Action Needed if Reseeding). A little growth will help with potential blowing yet this winter or early spring, but we don't want too much growth just yet — temperatures in the low teens are predicted for next week as winter returns for a few days.

The extent of damage from high winds and the dry, warm weather is not yet known, but these conditions may have forced the plant to sluff off some of the tillers. The high winds pretty much ended by mid January but soil drifts remain in areas to remind us of the intensity. Compounding the situation is the lack of moisture in some areas. Since mid January we've had some snow, but the average precipitation in the last 90 days is still have of normal. Wheat on summer fallow ground should have decent water for the spring, but will need rain to make grain. Wheat seeded after a 2008 summer crop may struggle if it doesn't get rain in the next few weeks.

Growers will need to determine how to manage the highly eroded areas since it's too late to plant winter wheat, and will need to consider the economics of crop inputs for a reduced yield and the need to monitor potential weed increases in thin wheat stands. (Some growers have said they may reduce or eliminate spring fertilizer.)

William Booker
Extension Educator, Box Butte County
Drew Lyon
Extension Dryland Crops Specialist, Panhandle REC