It may be hard for Kermit the Frog to be green, but it was a lot tougher being grain in the Carolinas and Virginia last year. However, this year looks considerably different.
Hammered early and often by flooding, freezing weather and record heat and drought in the spring growing season, 2010 just wasn’t pretty for grain production in the upper Southeast.
In 2011, high demand for wheat worldwide will likely push wheat acreage up slightly across the Southeast. The continued high price for soybeans is also likely to influence some growers to take advantage of good prices on wheat and beans.
The high price of wheat may even influence some growers who typically grow wheat for a cover crop to grow it out full-season, rather than killing it in time to plant other spring crops.
Regardless of the how and why wheat is grown in the upper Southeast, there is little doubt 2011 will make being grain a little easier than in 2010.
Wade Thomason, Virginia Tech small grain specialist, says 2010 was by far the worst he’s seen — not just for wheat, but for all crops grown in the state.
“This year we’ve got a good wheat crop going into the spring. A lot of our wheat growers had an absolute disaster with corn last year, which gave them plenty of time to get wheat planted in a timely manner.
“Many growers took advantage of the early planting opportunity and those who did have a good stand and really nice looking wheat. Normally waiting a week or two to plant isn’t a bad thing, but this year we had 10 days of rain and cool fall weather. Those who waited to plant may see some yield reduction because we just didn’t get heat units to make a full crop,” Thomason says.
If there is a bright side to crop failure and wide-spread dependence on crop insurance payments to get by, it may be that farmers had time to plan fall crops and more importantly, they had a big residual of nitrogen and other fertilizers that were not used by the plants that sat week after week in hot, dry weather.
Problems with the previous year’s wheat crop left wheat seed supplies tight last fall. Most growers found the seed they needed, though in some cases not in the variety they wanted, Thomason says.
“Over the past few years Virginia wheat yields had been increasing every year, but the past two years put an end to that trend. The increases in yield, I think, come in large part because of the improved varieties our growers are getting from Carl Griffey’s breeding program. The new varieties keep getting better, so with better weather patterns over the next few years, we can expect yields to continue to climb,” Thomason adds.