TAMAROA — Greg Ragland may normally be a bit happier pulling 80 bushels of wheat out of each of the planted acres on his Perry County farm. But his neighbors are doing even better.
“It’s looking pretty good, but it’s a little thin,” Ragland said as he pushed his combine through an 88-acre field. “I may have spread it too fast when I was planting. Other people have great wheat. I have a neighbor who made 110-120 (bushels per acre). That makes 80 look kind of bad.”
This may be a year when even the bad wheat is pretty good.
Cheryl Nobe of Gateway FS in Ferrin, Illinois, has seen a lot of wheat come through the Clinton County grain elevator, and most of it is praiseworthy.
“It’s better than expected,” Nobe said. “The crop looks excellent. We’ve had anywhere from 85 to 105 bushels per acre.”
The last two farmers who deliver wheat to the elevator finished up June 21, Nobe added. Quality has been off the charts, for the most part.
“We’ve had test weights all the way up to 64 this year, which is really unusual,” she said.
Terry Probst of Effingham Equity also has a positive reaction to the wheat brought into that elevator.
“Yields are average to above average, and quality is above average,” Probst said.
Phil Krieg, a Syngenta field agronomist who works out of Freeburg in St. Clair County, saw little disease pressure on the crop.
“We did have relatively low disease incidents this year. Really, there were no fusarium head scab reports,” he said. “We had that dry spell early on, and that helped reduce incidents of fusarium head scab. And that’s what you usually worry about, from a quality factor.
“High management certainly paid off this year. Guys are really doing a good job of keeping disease down in their fields. The healthier you keep that plant, the better the quality is going to be.”
In general, wheat producers in Illinois are becoming more conscious of the value of applying fungicides. Plant breeding that has developed varieties more resistant to diseases has also improved quality.
But like always in farming, Mother Nature plays a role.
“It’s all in the timing, and it’s all in the management,” Krieg said.
“We had a very good early harvest this year. Most folks were able to get the majority of their wheat harvested before it got a lot of rain on it. Guys were able to get it harvested in a timely fashion.”
Indeed, harvest was early this year. The Illinois Agricultural Statistics Service reported on June 19 that harvest was 65 percent complete, compared to the five-year average of only 24 percent.
A majority of producers reported their crop being above average, with 18 percent considering it excellent. Only 6 percent of growers said their wheat crop was poor this year.
Not everyone is joining the fun, however. St. Peter farmer Steve Hoover usually grows wheat, but not this year. The reason is the bottom line.
“I heard it was a relatively good yield,” Hoover said.
“But I just couldn’t make any money on the wheat, and to depend on double-crop soybeans to make a profit, I find that a little bit risky. I would just rather go with first-season beans and corn until wheat gets back up closer to $6.
“We’ve taken it out of our rotation until we get better prices. Wheat at $4.30 is not very enticing.”