Mid-South wheat yields were all over the board this season, but in many cases, were surprising given a wet planting season and very cold winter.

According to Mississippi grain crop specialist Erick Larson, overall wheat yields in the state were about average. “The biggest problem with the wheat crop this year was the wet conditions in September (2009), which kept farmers from doing field preparation until well into the optimum wheat planting period — generally late October to November. It didn’t dry out enough for farmers to get into the field until the first week in November last year.

“On some of our most productive well-drained soils where producers were able to till the ground and plant with a drill or use a planting technique which produced good stands, we had pretty good yields. But on fields with a less than optimum stand entering the winter, because we had very cold conditions over the winter and through February and most of March, the wheat was prohibited from catching up and tillering to compensate for poor stands. That reduced the yield potential somewhat.”

Most Arkansas producers were pleasantly surprised at their wheat yields this season, especially after the terrible start to the crop in 2009, noted Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains specialist at the University of Arkansas.

“Most of our wheat was planted in November. Some of it came up to a good stand. Some didn’t. It got cold toward the end of the year, and it sat there until about the first of March. From about the middle of March to the first part of May, we had some good conditions, and it really came on strong. We’ve had some good yields, but if we would have had a better setup in the fall, I think we would have had really good yields.”

Kelley said some producers reported 70- to 80-bushel wheat yields. “Overall a lot of people were surprised that it did as well as it did.” According to USDA, wheat yields averaged 52 bushels per acre across the state, which is about average. “But it could have been a lot worse.”

Arkansas wheat plantings have declined by over 800,000 acres over the last two seasons, due to lower economic returns along with poor planting environment in 2009. Arkansas producers planted over a million acres in 2007, 400,000 acres in 2008 and 200,000 in 2009. Producers harvested 170,000 acres in 2010.

According to Louisiana Extension wheat specialist Ed Twidwell, producers saw mixed results at wheat harvest, with yields reported between 30 bushels and 80 bushels per acre.

“Wheat really went through a lot of stress this year. Wet weather in January, February and part of March, especially on heavy soils, didn’t allow the plants to tiller out very well. Those areas are where we had the lowest yields. In the spring, it turned off extremely dry when the plants were going through flowering, which has a negative impact on grain yields.

“We’ll average maybe 50 bushels per acre, which is a little lower than we’ve had in the last two or three years. Test weights were down in most cases. The best yields were around New Roads and Morganza, which is where we typically have the largest wheat acreage in the state.”

Disease was not much of problem with the crop, Twidwell said, “especially in the spring when it turned off dry. We didn’t have a lot of problems with insects either.”

The state planted about 120,000 acres of wheat for harvest in 2010.

Tennessee’s 2010 wheat crop averaged between 55 bushels and 75 bushels per acre, according to Chris Main, cotton and wheat specialist for the state. “We had a few fields that hit 85 bushels to 90 bushels. But we had too much rain to get a real good crop.”

Main believes overall yields in the state could end up around 62 bushels to 66 bushels per acre, “which is just a few bushels better than the five-year average.”

Much of the crop was produced for contracts fixed in 2007 when wheat prices were very attractive, Main said. “There wasn’t a whole lot being grown and sold for cash this year.”

According to a report from Rabobank, early harvests of U.S. hard red winter wheat indicate poor protein results thus far.

Rabobank also reports that wheat crop development has not progressed as optimally across the Northern Hemisphere as at the same stage last season. Parts of Europe have suffered dry conditions which have impacted yield prospects. Spring wheat plantings in Canada have been significantly delayed due to excessive moisture levels in May and early June.

Rabobank estimates that the current USDA forecast for world wheat production at 668.5 million metric tons is overstated by as much as 8 million metric tons.

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com