WHEAT LOOKS good across the Upper Southeast as the crop heads into 2014, says North Carolina State Specialist Randy Weisz.
The good news, Weisz says, is that so far no one has reported digging up wheat plants and finding the growing points brown and black and clearly water-logged and dead.
Record rainfall throughout the 2013 growing season pushed harvest of virtually every crop back two weeks or more. Combine late harvest with the amount of nutrients taken from the soil and the problem of lack of nutrients for the 2014 wheat crop is magnified.
Corn, for example, under more normal growing conditions removes about three-quarters pound of nitrogen per bushel, 1.2 pounds per bushel of wheat and 3.6 pounds per bushel for soybeans. Combined with the heavier loss rate of nutrients under heavy rainfall conditions, lack of nutrients is not only likely in many parts of the Carolinas and Virginia, it is almost certain to occur.
Per bushel losses of phosphate, potash and sulfur are much smaller, but may be just as important when calculating how much of these nutrients were lost to heavy rainfalls on the 2013 crop.
Potassium removed from the soil on soybeans is about .75 pound per bushel. On corn, the loss is about a third pound and on wheat about a tenth of a pound per bushel.
Sulfur is critical to the growth of wheat and though smaller amounts are lost when the crop is harvested, these losses still represent a significant reduction in relation to the amount applied.
On soybeans, sulfur lost to the plant is about .18 pound and roughly half that amount for corn and wheat.
“I never thought I’d be talking about ways to make wheat profitable, but based on the latest prices, this looks like a real good year to take a careful look at input costs,” Weisz says.
“Over the past few years growers have had good prices and generally good crops, and some have tried some things that sometimes work and sometimes don’t on wheat. With prices where they are now (early December), it may be time to look at each input and determine how valuable it is in relation to how much it may increase yield, quality and value of the crop,” he adds.