As wheat prices continue to bump up against the $9-per bushel range, growers in the lower Southeast are rushing to take advantage of the lofty prices with what could be — in some states — record-high yields.

Georgia’s wheat crop, according to a June 1 NASS survey, is forecast to average 55 bushels per acre, a record-high yield and 15 bushels more per acre than growers made in 2007.

The higher-than-normal yields are being attributed to the excellent growing conditions for the 2007-08 wheat crop. Crop development was slightly behind normal, but disease and insect pressure were at a minimum as growers invested more into the crop and sprayed more.

Harvesting progress in June was rated as slightly behind normal, with total acreage harvested for grain set at 350,000 acres, up 120,000 acres from 2007. Wheat production in Georgia is expected to total 19.3 million bushels, more than double last year’s production.

In Alabama, regional Extension agent Leonard Kuykendall says the wheat harvest is promising with early yields reported to be above average. “We’re seeing the possibility of hitting both a good crop and pricing year. You want to take full advantage of this opportunity that is rare,” he advises farmers.

Wheat marketing, harvesting, delivering and storage is as important as growing the crop, he says. “Usually, two weeks is about all the harvest time we have, once the crops dry to near the 13.5-percent standard moisture for marketing wheat. Wet weather is the worse condition for wheat harvesting, as it results in loss of yield, test weight, and may promote sprouting, lodging and overall problems,” says Kuykendall.

Forward pricing and on-farm storage are important harvesting/marketing tools, even more so with the big crop and big swings in commodity prices this year, he adds.

“Elevators are confronting a big crop, meaning that when the supply is up, the buyer is more extreme in discounting or rejecting wheat for any and all reasons,” he says.

Baling wheat straw provides income and may improve the seeding of a second crop such as soybeans, although delaying planting may also reduce soybean yields, says Kuykendall.

“Straw removal of 3,000 pounds would reduce nitrogen amount by 20 pounds, phosphorous by 7 pounds and potassium by 42 pounds per acre. You can calculate the value of phosphorus and potassium that may be taken off with the straw. I would estimate about $30 per acre,” says the agronomist.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com