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State's wheat enters spring 'looking good'
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's wheat is emerging from the winter with the same potential as last year’s record yield, but many opportunities remain for Mother Nature to spoil the final outcome.
Although the weather at planting time was favorable, the profit potential for wheat was not. The result was a wheat acreage decline of about 50 percent from last year, when growers averaged 62 bushels per acre on 485,000 acres.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said growers still had a significant amount of wheat, with 260,000 acres planted. Strong markets in 2007 and 2008, when prices averaged between $4.30 and $5.55 per bushel, inspired the record plantings those years.
“The economic downturn has caused all commodity prices to come down. Forward prices for wheat last September were around $5 per bushel. Now, the upcoming crop is running between $4.25 and $4.50 per bushel,” Anderson said.
Extension small grains specialist Erick Larson said profit-potential was key in planting decisions last fall. Although double-cropping with soybeans had proven successful in 2008, growers were looking at extremely high fertilizer and fuel costs.
“Wheat requires more fertilizer than soybeans, making soybeans a lot more attractive last fall when growers were making planting decisions,” Larson said. “After the planting window for wheat closed, prices for fuel and fertilizer dropped substantially.”
Art Smith is the MSU Extension Service’s area agronomic crop agent based in DeSoto County. He said wheat is “looking good” as it approaches the head development stage and has similar potential to last year’s crop.
“But if the weather turns unusually wet or we have a late spring freeze like we had a couple years ago, the yield potential will decline,” Smith said. “In general, wheat performs better in dry conditions than in wet.”
Jerry Singleton, Extension agronomic crop agent in Leflore County, said growers are planting wheat in former cotton fields.
“These fields are typically some of the best soils and are well drained. Those factors should contribute to strong yields as long as March rains do not trigger diseases,” Singleton said.