Grain News


ND Wheat Growers Struggle to Finish Planting; Customers Express Concerns

Date Posted: June 18, 2013

Planting of this year's spring wheat and durum crop has proven to be a challenge for producers in North Dakota.

April snowstorms and continued cool, wet conditions prevented many of the state's farmers from even entering the field until the second week of May.

Once planting began, most producers have only been able to get a few days a week to plant as historically high levels of rain during May and continued wet, cool conditions in early June have stalled and delayed planting progress.

It is estimated that this year's planting delays are the worst in nearly 30 years and conditions are very similar to the 2011 crop year when 5.6 million of the states crop area was left unplanted.

As of June 9, 77 percent of North Dakota's intended 6.2 million acres of spring wheat and 78 percent of the intended 1.1 million acres of durum had been planted.

With the middle of June already behind us and continued wet conditions still an issue, it is likely that a significant portion of the remaining intended acreage will remain unplanted.

For comparison, in 2011 producers only planted 5.65 million acres of spring wheat and durum was hit especially hard with only 750,000 acres planted, about half the intended amount.

Many of our spring wheat and durum customers are aware of the situation and have expressed concerns regarding not only the supply levels of this year's crop, but also the quality.

It is very likely that supplies will be down this year as a significant level of acres will go unplanted and late planting almost always has a negative impact on yield.

In 2011 the average N.D. wheat yield fell to 30 bushels per acre.

The earlier the wheat is planted the better - the 2010 and 2012 crop years, early planting years, attained record and near record yields of 43 and 43.7 bushels per acre, respectively.

A favorable growing season with cooler than normal temperatures can compensate for delayed plantings, and increase yield potential like in 2009, but the 2009 crop year was likely an exception to the rule.

According to Joel Ransom, NDSU Extension Agronomist, the amount of yield reduction in a late year is hard to predict, "The actual yield reduction will be largely dependent on weather conditions, however, a rough rule of thumb is about 1.5 percent per day beyond the optimum planting date."

Optimal planting dates in North Dakota range from May 10 to May 20 depending on latitude. Wheat favors cooler conditions, so if we endure hot, dry conditions during grain fill, yield will likely be impacted more negatively than if we see cooler conditions.

The weather conditions during grain fill will also have some effect on quality parameters.

A late planted crop doesn't necessarily mean lower quality; in fact the later than normal 2011 season produced a spring wheat crop with high protein and strong end use quality characteristics.

Ransom explains that generally a later planted crop will have grain fill occur during warmer weather which can affect some quality parameters.

"Grain filling during warm conditions causes kernels to fill faster, but accumulate less starch, so they tend to be smaller and often somewhat shriveled.

"Usually test weight is lower than normal and protein content is higher." The end use quality though is tough to predict.

The biggest factor on quality will be weather during the growing season.

From a producer standpoint, the biggest challenges with the wet conditions, besides the obvious of delayed planting, is potential nitrogen loss through leaching and increased leaf disease pressure.

Emergence can also be an issue with soil crusting issues and some areas being drown out.

During wet conditions, root rot can be a concern and in times of plentiful soil moisture, plants don't need to root down as far, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies, especially if adequate moisture isn't available during the remainder of the growing season.

While customers remain concerned about this year's spring wheat and durum crops, they can be assured that producers are determined to plant as many acres as conditions allow, by pushing the ideal planting dates, adjusting varieties based on maturity and managing agronomic challenges.

They hope Mother Nature cooperates and gives them a break on the summer weather since the spring weather has certainly not been.

For more information, call 701-328-5111.

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