June rains have significantly improved planting conditions for growers in the Upper Southeast, but are hampering efforts to quickly harvest one of the largest wheat crops in recent years in the Carolinas and Virginia.

North Carolina State University Small Grains Specialist Randy Weisz says, “Wheat grain moisture levels around the state are being reported in the 16 to 22 percent range. While we usually wait until wheat is closer to 15 percent to harvest, the prolonged exposure to high humidity and rain, combined with lodging, is resulting in grain sprouting in the head.”

The wet weather conditions have left wheat growers between the proverbial rock and hard place. Prolonged dry weather could substantially improve wheat quality, but leaving it in the field is more than a weather risk.

Weisz says, if growers have the capacity to dry grain they need to be getting this crop out of the field.

University of Kentucky researchers recently released a publication on managing high moisture wheat, which Weisz says could be very helpful to many growers in the Upper Southeast who have little experience growing wheat over the past few years, and for some who have never grown the crop.

The publication, “Harvesting, Drying and Storing Wheat” is written by University of Kentucky researchers Sam McNeil, Doug Overhults and Mike Montross. It can be obtained from the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture or accessed online at http://www.uky.edu/Ag/GrainCrops/ID125Section10.html.

Many growers in the Upper Southeast are ready to harvest wheat now, but much of the crop isn’t at the 13-15 percent desired moisture level, and some fields aren’t even close to the optimum drying level.

The time to start harvesting high moisture wheat, according to the Kentucky report is: As soon as the crop has field dried enough that it can be handled safely.