Why Irrigation Rigs Are Running This Fall

Wheat growers try to get crop to emerge evenly.

Published on: Nov 9, 2010
The state soils judging contest for 4-H and FFA members held near Vincennes and the White River a week and a half ago was held in a field where wheat had been spread and disked in as a cover crop, according to Chuck Mansfield, a Purdue University Extension agronomist based at Vincennes. The only problem was hardly any of the contestants to coaches who visited the site ever knew wheat was planted there.

"This was a tough year to apply wheat that way," he says. "I could find a sprig here and there, but I also saw wheat laying on the ground. It's been extremely dry in that part of the state, and methods that work some falls didn't work this fall."

One method that did work to get commercial wheat up and going was irrigation in fields where irrigation rigs were already installed. One such rig was working along U.S. Highway 41 not far from the contest site on the day of the state soils judging contest, spraying water across the field on the day before Halloween. That's not the typical time for irrigation in Indiana, even in southern Indiana.

"Some have went that route to get their wheat to emerge," Mansfield says. "It's a bit unusual, but is seems to be successful. Most fields where the farmer has irrigated them because it was so dry, look pretty good."

Not many farmers, even in southern Indiana, planted wheat a year ago. The perfect storm of a disastrous harvest due to disease, relatively low price prospects and a late harvest led many to forego wheat planting, even though wheat followed by doublecrop soybeans is typically one of the more profitable crop enterprise when budgets are figured in southern Indiana, especially in southwest Indiana.

"Wheat planting was way up this year," Mansfield says. "Price prospects were much better, and farmers returned to planting wheat." In fact, anecdotal reports indicate that even in central Indiana, it was difficult to locate wheat seed if you didn't line it up early. One farmer who always grows some wheat was left in the cold this time around because he didn't order early enough. When he went looking for wheat seed, it wasn't there to be found. He has irrigation and could have likely ensured a good stand.