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Potential yields, prices boost interest in wheat
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The potential for record yields and the opportunity for excellent 2007 crop prices should reverse Mississippi's recent trend of reduced wheat acreage.
Mississippi growers now are harvesting 70,000 acres of wheat, which is about half the 2004 acreage and one-third as much as in 2001. Yields are predicted near the 2000 record of 55 bushels per acre.
Steve Martin, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said 2006 prices have been a little above $4 per bushel. The average prices in 2003 through 2005 ranged between $3.30 and $3.37 per bushel.
“No one knew prices would be this good when they were planting last fall, so it's a nice bonus,” Martin said. “July 2007 futures have been in the $4.70 range. When growers can lock in on $4.50 to $4.70 per bushel, it is more encouraging for wheat planting in the fall.”
An additional factor favoring wheat this fall is the fact that soybean prices have been down in the mid-$5 range.
Bolivar County Extension director Don Respess said while a lot can change in wheat or soybeans, the potential for larger wheat acreage next year looks very likely.
“If wheat stays in the $4 range, we'll see a lot of wheat planted next year, and it may not be double-cropped with soybeans. When farmers can gross as much with wheat alone as with soybeans with significantly fewer inputs (production costs), wheat looks very good.”
Erick Larson, Extension small grains specialist, said growers started harvesting earlier than normal this year. Dry conditions delayed some plantings last fall, and then saturated soils during the winter resulted in some thin wheat stands. The warm April temperatures improved the crop's condition and accelerated maturity.
“The weather has turned out very well for wheat. Dry conditions helped keep disease pressure light. There was some leaf rust, but the major problem of recent years -- stripe rust -- never developed,” Larson said. “Although wheat acreage is down, the overall crop yield should be very good for the growers who stuck with the crop. Most farmers hope to equal the 55 bushel per acre record yield.”
Larson said snow geese, an annual problem for wheat growers, returned to fields this winter. Because of the reduction in wheat acreage, the numbers of birds were higher -- more concentrated -- on impacted fields.
“They do not impact yield potential as much as the weather, but they are a factor,” he said.