By Martin Nagelkirk
In late September 2012, the National Agriculture Statistic Service published its revised estimate of 76 bushels per acre for the season's average wheat yields in Michigan. This tops the record set just the previous year, making it two years in a row where the state's wheat growers surpassed previous record-high yields.
The improvement in yields can reasonably be attributed to several factors. Perhaps the single most significant factor has been the strengthening of the wheat market, as it has led to an increase in the amount of management time and production inputs growers are willing to invest in their wheat crop.
Arguably, the single most significant input in recent years is the marked increase in the use of fungicides to protect against yield-robbing foliar diseases. On individual farms, however, the greatest boosts may have come from changes in planting practices, fertilizer nitrogen management or variety selection.
Going forward, the industry is looking for ways to keep yields on this upward trend. To achieve continued success, Michigan State University Extension recommends growers remain vigilant relative to improvements in fertilization practices, disease management and varietal selection. At the same time, emphasis needs to be placed on identifying and addressing other yield-limiting factors in order to achieve yields that reflect the crops current potential.
While an eye on increased productivity is important, remain focused on the bottom line as expenses have increased significantly. As some growers have pointed out, wheat is not an inexpensive crop to produce when pursuing high yields. It is not unrealistic to predict cash costs in excess of $250 per acre for the 2012-2013 season.
Growers are encouraged to develop their own crop budget and make note of which practices and inputs are most beneficial to profitability. This knowledge will be particularly helpful when the less generous market prices come back around.
Nagelkirk writes for Michigan State University Extension