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Ohio and indiana Wheat Ready for Evaluation

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Written Monday, May 06, 1996  

Winter wheat has reached the point at which farmers can evaluate its condition and be confident about their assessments of winter injury, says an Ohio State plant pathologist.

Pat Lipps says accurate evaluation is possible now because tillering has ended and farmers won't be fooled by healthy-looking plants that are really in bad shape. He acknowledges there has been some plant death, and many plants are growing poorly.

In Ohio, even the best-looking wheat is behind in development for this time of year, Lipps says. The best wheat is generally approaching growth-stage six or stem elongation while in a normal year, it should be at growth-stage eight (flag-leaf emergence) in southern counties and rapidly approaching that stage in the north.

"From my survey of fields in northern Ohio (April 21-27), less than 5 percent of the fields were in growth stage six by the first of May," Lipps says.

In Indiana, Purdue wheat specialist Ellsworth Christmas says a lot of the wheat crop is looking better. "Some of the fields earlier considered to be marginal will now be retained and taken to harvest," he says.

The worst conditions for Indiana wheat exist in the southern part of the state where over-generous rains have waterlogged fields. "A number of wheat fields are covered with water. In general, wheat cannot tolerate flooding for more than two days or perhaps three with the cool temperatures," Christmas says.

Christmas cites the same behind-schedule development of Indiana wheat that Lipps has seen in Ohio. "Growth and development of wheat is well behind normal this year," Christmas says. "The delay will result in a five- to seven-day delay in harvest."

"Expect this to limit yield potential, especially if growth is retarded over the next week due to cold temperatures," Lipps says.

Nitrogen will help weak wheat and farmers can apply it through the first week of May, says OSU agronomist Jim Beuerlein. However the extreme variability in damage makes it difficult to give a specific recommendation about how much to apply to do any good, he says.

"Most fields can benefit from a total of 50 pounds to 70 pounds of nitrogen in the spring," Beuerlein says. "However, keep in mind that yield this year is likely to be no better than 75 percent of an average yield," he says. "Adjust the nitrogen rate to match yield potential."

Not all news is bad for this year's wheat, though. Lipps and Christmas say disease levels appear to be very low. Lipps has found very few cases of powdery mildew, which can appear on lower leaves about this time of year. He expects powdery mildew to be a problem only in a few fields planted early with susceptible varieties.

Christmas says leaf diseases are not likely to be a serious issue for Indiana wheat. "I have yet to find any plant with any evidence of leaf disease in the fields that I have examined." he says.

Lipps reminds farmers that Tilt fungicide, which is used to fight powdery mildew, must be applied at or before flag-leaf emergence. Farmers can apply Bayleton fungicide at later stages, but no later than 21 days before harvest.

Continued wet weather could cause Septoria nodorum glume blotch outbreaks, which are not yet a problem, Lipps says. "We have no reports of other wheat diseases at this time."

For those hoping to double crop, Christmas advises harvest be done with wheat at 17 percent to 23 percent moisture and the grain be dried in order to gain a few days for soybean planting.

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