Much of South Dakota's winter wheat crop is in tough shape and many producers have to do decide what to do with the crop. Dwayne Beck, South Dakota State University agronomist and manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm at Pierre, S.D., lists the following steps to work through the options:
•Make sure your crop insurance agent is involved if the crop was insured. Have them explain the different options (in writing if necessary).
•Consider needs other than the desire to maximize returns this year. Don't jeopardize the soil or next year's crop for a few dollars.
•Residue levels need to be maintained. Replanting a low-residue crop into a failed wheat crop could lead to crop failure and soil erosion this year, next year or both.
•Weed issues in last year's crop will need to be addressed this year whether you choose to leave the wheat or switch to another crop. Similarly, missing on weed control this year because of thin and uneven stands may require extra effort in the future.
•Late maturing wheat could face many more disease issues than wheat that grew and matured normally.
•Tillers produced late in the spring have limited yield potential, except possibly along the northern border of South Dakota. Late emerging plants will produce few tillers.
•Producers facing degraded pastures and limited feed supplies could use the wheat as a grazing source to give pastures a rest in early summer. Interseeding spring cereals, legumes, and some warm season species into the existing wheat stand is one way of doing this. Short-term intensive grazing followed by regrowth to rebuild residue levels is better than a late season haying.
•Replacing failed wheat with a grain sorghum crop can be done more cheaply than using corn because of differences in seed costs. Herbicide programs are more limited for sorghum than for corn especially for grass species. Millets, forage sorghums, and other warm season grasses produce residue on less water than other choices.
•Herbicide carry-over could be an issue if fall programs were used on the wheat.
If fertilizer N was applied to the winter wheat last fall or during the winter, nitrate levels in forages could be high if it stays dry.
•Green bridging insects or diseases could be a major issue when crops are interseeded or replanted depending on what insects and diseases are present in the failed crop.
•If the winter wheat was seeded into spring wheat stubble, producers will probably be disappointed with the performance of spring wheat interseeded into the failed crop. Disease pressure will be high and difficult to control.
•Seed supply and quality is a limiting factor for many crop choices.
•If you are enrolled in CSP or other enhancement programs, the regulations associated with the program need to be reviewed.
•Don't panic; take some time to decide what is best for your situation.