A cold wind was blowing as farmers and industry representatives arrived for the annual Wheat and Oats Field Day at the Tom H. Scott Research & Extension Center in Winnsboro, La., April 16. But wheat growers were warmed by what they heard inside.
Dr. Stephen Harrison, wheat and oat breeder and variety testing coordinator for the LSU AgCenter, said the 2014 wheat crop, which has struggled with excessive moisture and colder temperatures for most of the season, mostly escaped from frost or freeze damage.
“Last year, the early varieties were badly damaged by a late freeze,” he noted. “It looks like we escaped that – just barely – last night. There was a little bit of light frost in some areas. But the wheat fields I checked had water but not ice on them. We got down maybe to 35 or 37 here so we’re OK on frost damage or late freeze damage.”
The Louisiana crop is about two weeks late because of the environmental conditions that occurred in north Louisiana for much of the winter. Another two inches of rain two days before the field day had area rivers and streams running full.
“Whether or not it stays cool for another four or five weeks or starts warming up will determine whether those medium early varieties do really well or whether those late-heading varieties have another three or four weeks to fill grain, and they do well." said Harrison.
“Generally, the crop is in good shape, surprisingly so given the winter we’ve had,” he said, referring to the water damage from heavy rains that occurred in months since planting.
“Low areas of fields, ditches and places that don’t drain well have some stunting and yellowing and nitrogen deficiencies. We’ve had quite a bit of downy mildew. The main thing is that we’re running late with this crop.”
The average heading date for the wheat crop in Winnsboro is in early April (4 or 5). “Here we are on April 16, and probably not one in three of the varieties here have headed out.,” he noted. “So we’re a good two weeks late.”
The next hurdle for the crop is the weather between now and harvest, which normally occurs in late May and early June in northeast Louisiana.
“If we get into early May and into the 90s like we typically do those late varieties will be under a lot of stress during grain fill, and we’re going to have lower yields and lower test weights.”