news, features, articles and disease information for the crop industry


Illinois Drought: Positive Effects on Wheat

20 July 2012

US - Amid the trauma of ongoing drought and declining corn and soybean conditions in Illinois there is some good news.

According to University of Illinois crop sciences professor Emerson Nafziger, the 2012 wheat yield came in higher than expected with the July 1 yield estimate raised to 64 bushels per acre. That ties for third-highest yield on record for Illinois and is 5 bushels higher than the average over the last decade.

The good yields were of excellent quality. Test weight values – an indirect measure of quality – were among the highest ever seen. Good wheat yields and high test weights both resulted from dry weather this spring.

“Dry weather limits disease, makes harvest possible without the grain getting wet, and in general provides good conditions for wheat to fill grain,” Professor Nafziger explained.

The very early start to spring growth under high March temperatures followed by frost the second week of April might have kept yields from being even higher. The frost did not cause much visible injury, but the crop was in the boot (pre-heading) stage in many fields and there was probably some injury to heads.

“The early warm temperatures might also have decreased tillering and head numbers some, and this might have also decreased the yield potential,” Professor Nafziger said. “Great filling conditions after the frost, however, helped kernels get larger and minimized the effect of reduced kernel numbers.”

The 2012 results of the wheat variety trials conducted at six locations each year are available here. Average yields by location ranged from 61 at Dixon Springs to 100 bushels per acre at Perry in Pike County in west-southwestern Illinois. Averaged over the three locations in the region, several varieties yielded more than 100 bushels per acre in northern Illinois and several yielded more than 85 bushels per acre in the southern set of trials.

One of the few downsides for wheat in 2012 is that soybean doublecropping following wheat harvest is unlikely to be successful.

With very dry soils after wheat harvest, many producers did not plant soybeans. The soybeans that have been planted are doing poorly and in some cases have failed to germinate or have died after emergence.

“Income from doublecropping helps make wheat work for many producers in the southern half of Illinois, and a poor doublecrop tends to discourage wheat production,” Professor Nafziger said.

As has happened in some previous dry years, wheat might be the highest-yielding crop for some producers in 2012. With the ongoing struggles of the corn and soybean crop and good wheat yields, there might be more interest in planting wheat this fall.

“Even if corn or soybean crops fail or are harvested very early, we need to resist the temptation to get out and plant wheat earlier than the ideal time,” warned Professor Nafziger. “The best time to plant ranges from mid-September at the northern edge of Illinois to mid-October at the southern tip. In the meantime, we can use results from trials to choose good varieties to plant.”

TheCropSite News Desk

Our Sponsors