After drenching rains in late May and early June, Mid-South producers finally got to do what they’ve been wanting to do for weeks – harvest their wheat crops. While yields have been surprisingly good, test weights have disappointed in some areas, particularly for growers in west Tennessee.

“We definitely have problems (with test weights) here in Weakley County,” said Jeff Lannom, Extension director for the county. “But the problem has varied widely. Some producers have had little to no dockage for test weight, while others have taken it on the chin. It has hit some producers hard, with as much as $3 per bushel dock at the grain buying stations. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between whether a fungicide was used to suppress head scab or not.”

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Heather Kelly, Extension plant pathologist at the University of Tennessee says low test weights have been reported in west Tennessee, Illinois and Kentucky. “The problems stem from rain that fell on the crop just as it reached maturity. It just really hurt the quality of the wheat.”

“How widespread it is hard to gauge,” said Brownsville, Tenn., producer Richard Jameson who said 10 days of rainy, cloudy, mild days from June 2 to June 12 is probably to blame. “That would have affected test weight and quality.”

Somerville, Tenn., farmer Bob Walker said he “had a little trouble with low test weight on some of his wheat, but not all of it.”

Arkansas Extension wheat and feed grains specialist Jason Kelley has heard reports of low test weights in wheat, but yields have been good to excellent. “Yields in the southern in the southern part of the state are better than yields in the northern part of the state. There are some isolated instances in in south Arkansas where we’ve had probably the highest yields we’ve ever had. Those fields were managed for 100 bushels and many went over 100 bushels.

“In the central Arkansas to northeast Arkansas region, there’s a lot of 50-bushel to 80-bushel wheat, which considering everything, is not too bad.”

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Kelley said test weights “have been a little bit disappointing though. The harvest has dragged out between rains. And of course every time it rains, the test weights drop a little bit more. At the beginning of harvest we had some test weights in south Arkansas of over 60. But overall the yields have been there. I think we will still end up with a good state average yield.”

 “Overall I think wheat yields a lot better than what people expected, particularly with the very cold temperatures we had during the late winter,” said Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension specialist, grain crops. “The rainfall that we had shortly after June 1 that lasted until June 15 in some areas, caught a lot of the wheat that was just approaching maturity or harvest moisture.”

Larson said the rains “probably did reduce the test weight somewhat, but overall, we’re thankful and a little bit surprised, that it didn’t cause some other issues. Wheat dodged a bullet in that we didn’t have severe quality problems associated with either kernels sprouting or extremely low test weights.”

Larson said test weights in Mississippi “really aren’t that far out of normal. Obviously you would like to have test weights up around 60 pounds every year, but that rarely happens. Rainfall does reduce test weight after it reaches harvest maturity.”

According to USDA, as of June 22, 62 percent of the Arkansas wheat crop had been harvested, compared to a 5-year average of 88 percent. Seventy-five percent of Mississippi’s wheat crop had been harvested by that date, compared to a 5-year average of 96 percent. In Tennessee, only 33 percent of the state’s wheat crop had been harvested, compared to a 5-year average of 65 percent. Wheat harvest in Louisiana is basically complete.