Normally when you drive into southwestern Indiana this time of year, green, lush wheat fields are easy to find. This year, you have to look hard to even find a few. And in fact, a couple of drills were spotted still in the field at work late last week, in early to mid November.
"We just aren't seeing the wheat acres planted this fall," says Chuck Mansfield, a Purdue University Extension specialist and educator based at Vincennes. Mansfield also teaches ag classes at Vincennes University.
"There wasn't much enthusiasm for wheat going into the fall season anyway, due to low wheat prices compared to corn and soybeans," he says. "Then when it became wet and harvest was delayed, it really turned more people off. I heard many growers say they just weren't going to mess with wheat this year."
Wheat and doublecrop soybeans are normally a staple in southwest Indiana, sometimes into central Indiana as well. Fewer wheat fields, based strictly on windshield surveys, have been noticed throughout the state. Wet weather is likely a major culprit as you move farther north.
"We didn't even get our wheat plot in over in Spencer County this fall," he notes. "We normally do a variety comparison plot. There isn't much wheat grown in the area anyway, and when it got late, the cooperator decided not to grow wheat this fall. So we didn't have anybody to service the plots next spring, and we just decided to not plant it. We did get wheat plots planted in Posey County, although the cooperator there that usually plants wheat didn't plant any wheat of his own either."
Wheat that was planted typically went in somewhat later than normal. But in southwest Indiana, if it went in between October 87 and 21, that's still in the acceptable range," Mansfield says. "Our fly-free date here is around October 7, and we normally say we're OK if we get it planted two weeks after the fly-free date."
Actually, even later-planted wheat may produce a good crop, depending upon weather conditions later. "One time in plots, we planted on purpose in December. It was actually mid-December before we got the December replication of a date-of-planting study in. We didn't see much until late winter. And of course there was no tillering in the fall. But the wheat still made 45 bushels per acre."