Finally, to get every bushel of grain at the highest possible test weight, the crop needs to be harvested just as soon as it hits 15 percent moisture. Test weight can drop by 1 pound per bushel every time the mature grain gets wetted by rain or even very heavy dew, Weisz says.

In South Carolina, wheat and small grains were not so hammered by heat and drought. The 2011 crop, says Clemson University Peanut and Small Grains Specialist Jay Chapin says the South Carolina wheat crop got off to a slow start due to below normal temperatures in December and early January. It caught up fast with exceptionally warm weather in February. 

“Medium maturity wheat varieties planted at Blackville on Nov. 20 jointed the first week of March, and we would not want the crop to be a day earlier due to increased risk of cold injury. Wheat jointed the first week of March will have heads emerged the first week of April.”

The 2011 crop has good potential, but yield and test weight will be determined from here on out by the usual weather factors: 1) No bad luck from a stem freeze in March or a head freeze in April; 2) having moderate temperatures to extend the kernel head fill period during April and early May; and 3) it doesn’t start raining every day at harvest maturity.

Aphids should already be dead and gone for the season from seed treatment or foliar pyrethroid in February top-dress or earlier. If aphid treatments are delayed past mid-February in the South Carolina coastal plain, barley yellow dwarf control is reduced. Neighbors to the north may require even earlier treatment. 

The most consistent yield response to a fungicide application is at fully emerged flag leaf — usually early April depending on planting date and variety. Topdress fungicide treatments (February, early March) are too early to prevent leaf rust and glume blotch — the major disease risks. “If powdery mildew is severe enough to warrant a top-dress fungicide under South Carolina conditions, we need to be planting a different variety,” Chapin says 

“Foliar fungicide treatments are crop insurance in that they are typically applied before significant disease symptoms are detected. Over the past 20 years, fungicide treatments have been profitable on wheat less than half the time in our tests, but it still makes economic sense to insure a crop with good potential (60 bushels per acre) from the catastrophic loss of leaf rust or glume blotch,” he adds.

For growers in the Southeast, prices pushing $8 a bushel and a much better growing season in 2011 make ‘being grain’ a little easier.