Aphids are usually very difficult to find this time of year in Mississippi. This is not a usual year, though, and Angus Catchot, Mississippi State University entomologist, found aphids on wheat plots the first week of February.

“When it does warm up in earnest in a few weeks that could mean our aphid numbers will really jump,” says Larson.

Aphids are in all of Arkansas’ wheat, says Kelley, although numbers are especially high in the south. “They’re building numbers much earlier than normal.”

Louisiana farmers are also seeing an abundance of aphids in their wheat, making it more likely barley yellow dwarf will emerge.

Louisiana’s wheat “looks okay although there is too much rank growth, particularly the farther south you travel,” says Harrison. “The wheat is very leafy and, around I-10, I think lodging will be an issue. With all the growth in the wheat, all the foliage means that even if there is no freeze damage, lodging could be the result of self-shading.”

Growers have also called Harrison to inquire about the timing of fertilizing. “They’ll say ‘My wheat is so green and leafy. I haven’t put out any fertilizer but the wheat is following a bad corn crop.’ In those situations, there’s a lot of residual nitrogen.

“I tell them to wait longer than normal if their wheat is really dark and green. Hold off a bit on top-dressing and cut back about a third on their normal application. They may have had 40, 50 or 60 units in the field when they planted. If you have a lousy corn crop and don’t have a lot of rainfall to move the nitrogen out, it’ll be available for the wheat.

“It’s a challenging spring from a wheat management perspective. We’ve got to keep our fingers crossed and hope it cools off but doesn’t get really cold.”

Weisz is offering similar advice in North Carolina. “I don’t think our growers should be fertilizing with nitrogen earlier than usual. Whenever we put nitrogen on the crop, it speeds it up. We don’t want that. So, even though it may be jointing, I don’t believe nitrogen should go on prior to the first week in March.”