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Stripe rust, soybeans dim wheat's appeal
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Wheat farmers weighing their options for fall plantings are finding the scales tipping less and less toward double-cropping methods.
In June, Mississippi wheat growers harvested a slightly below-average yield after battling stripe rust and water-logged soils much of the growing season. Fields averaged 48 bushels per acre, five fewer than last year. The state's growers planted 110,000 acres of wheat and harvested 95,000 acres for the fifth consecutive year of declining acreage.
Erick Larson, Mississippi State University Extension Service small grains specialist, said the success of early planted soybeans is a factor in fewer wheat acres. The timing of wheat harvests prohibits early plantings of soybeans in the same fields.
"In recent years, early maturing soybean systems have succeeded by setting good yields before dry conditions arrive," Larson said. "With the recent arrival of Asian soybean rust, growers are hoping earlier maturing soybeans also will avoid significant control issues with that potentially devastating disease. If growers double crop with soybeans and wheat, they must forfeit the option of early soybean plantings."
Growers of last winter's wheat crop battled soggy conditions throughout most of the growing season with the exception of North Delta fields that were drier than the rest of the state.
"Wet conditions reduced plant density on existing stands. Some planting delays early in the fall also helped reduce total acreage," Larson said. "Very wet conditions extended through mid-April in most of the wheat growing areas. Generally, we need to have dry conditions through March, April and May to produce good wheat yields."
Larson also blamed stripe rust for reducing yields. A relatively new challenge for growers, this disease arrived earlier in the year than in recent years and was very prominent in susceptible varieties. Infestations were most severe in the South Delta with progression toward the northeast.
"Growers likely will select more varieties with resistance to stripe rust in the future," he said. "Historically, stripe rust has not been the problem that leaf rust has been, but it has become our No. 1 wheat disease in recent years."
In general, growers who controlled drainage and stripe rust should have posted decent yields, Larson said.
Art Smith, Extension area agronomics crops agent based in Tunica and DeSoto counties, said most growers experienced very little rust damage in that area and fields were dry throughout most of the harvest.
"We had good yields in the 50 to 60 bushel per acre range, with some exceptional fields of more than 70 bushels per acre," Smith said. "Some of our growers are having success selling wheat as a dual-purpose crop. They harvest the grain and then sell the straw."
Smith said growers harvest the straw in 30 to 40 pound square bales. Each acre can produce 30 to 70 bales which market for $2.50 to $3.50 each.