As the wheat season's stretch run nears, the crops in Arkansas and Mississippi appear to be winners.
“Things are lining up nicely,” says Jason Kelley, Arkansas Extension wheat and corn specialist. “Hopefully we'll have a bumper crop in many fields and folks can make some money. I'm very happy to say that's a possibility.” Much of Arkansas' wheat — estimated by USDA at 370,000 acres — is a week to 10 days ahead of schedule.
“With wheat, the warmer it is, the faster it develops. The warm winter and early spring have really goosed it. It's been 90 to 95 degrees for the last few days… Since we're so far ahead it wouldn't surprise me if some wheat was being test-harvested by (May 20).”
Mississippi wheat looks “very good,” says Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn and wheat specialist. “Most wheat is heading and there's not a lot of disease. Unfortunately, we're seeing quite a bit of glyphosate drift. As producers are beginning to scout for diseases, they're noticing the damage.”
Considering how wheat has turned out, “there are probably some producers wishing they'd planted some more last fall,” says Kelley. “There are some opportunities to make money. I know producers who have wheat booked at close to $4.25. With good yields and that price, they'll make some money.”
The possibility for profits increases because much of the wheat hasn't had the usual inputs. “A lot of fields weren't sprayed with a fungicide. It got wet on us in February, so some of the fields only have one application of nitrogen instead of the normal two. As far as input costs, the wheat has been a pretty cheap crop.”
For the most part, incidents of disease have been low although some Arkansas producers have sprayed for powdery mildew.
“That's a little unusual. Most of the time, the mildew isn't a problem. But this year, there were some varieties that had mildew get pretty high on the plants.”
While the crop hasn't been stripe rust-free, warm temperatures and dry weather have slowed the disease to a crawl.
“There's a little bit of leaf rust in the wheat too. But like a bunch of other diseases, 95-degree temperatures and no rain have kept it down.”
Mississippi corn planting has gone smoothly with few emergence problems. “There was some hail damage from a storm that hit (around April 7),” says Larson. “The hail hurt some corn and wheat fields — some severely — around the state. Most of the hail problems hit from Parchman/Sumner/Webb to the Morgan City area. Some fields lost 10 to 15 percent of plants to the hail. For the most part, though, there wasn't any replanting required.”
Mississippi corn producers are currently putting out postemergence herbicides and nitrogen. This time of year, “everyone needs to be checking weeds. We've been seeing stink bugs and chinch bugs in the corn. There are a lot of treatments going out for chinch bugs.”
Even though much seed was treated with an insecticide, entomologists warn the effects are ending.
“We're seeing pests build up to threshold levels,” says Larson. “A lot of early chinch bug damage is related to the hot, dry weather we've had the last couple of weeks. The bugs like this weather. If we have a cool, moist March and April, chinch bugs don't normally build up to do any damage until late April/first of May. This year, they're very early.”
In Arkansas, a lack of moisture continues to concern Kelley. “If it hadn't rained in northeast Arkansas (April 19-20), the situation would have been pretty dire. There was 2-inch to 4-inch-tall corn that was already wilted. That's how dry it's been.
“If rains don't come and stay awhile, we could be on the verge of another disaster. The subsoil moisture just isn't there in many fields. There's nothing to draw on and the rains we've been getting haven't been enough.
“The way things have been going — 90 degrees with wind whipping — conditions have been more like August. If that continues, it points to trouble. Rain is a constant topic of conversation in the state.”
It's “fairly” dry in Mississippi, too, says Larson. “I'm sure there are crops in the state that are hurting. The northwest and southern parts of the state — where some areas haven't gotten rain since February — are the driest. We could use some rain and I hope we get some soon. Overall, I don't think we're in quite as bad a shape as Arkansas and Louisiana, though.”