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Rain fails to dampen harvest optimism

Staff writer

Recent rain had a mixed effect on Marion County crops in May. Wheat yields are likely to be above average. Corn is a different story.

Moisture and extended cool temperatures have had a detrimental influence.

Jeff Naysmith, agronomist at Cooperative Grain and Supply in Hillsboro, spends his workweek combing fields west of Indigo Rd. (K-15).

“Wheat is filling in pretty good so far, but corn is kind of struggling right now because it has been wet for so long,” Naysmith said. “There seems to be a lot of uneven growth and nitrogen deficiencies.”

Without proper nitrogen, lower leaves become yellow, he said. Worst case, the plant will not produce grain. Farmers noticing should add nitrogen to their fields.

Dick Tippin works with Naysmith as grain coordinator.

“Overall, corn looks good,” Tippin said. “Same with wheat, but there are some drowned-out spots in some fields. It just depends on the area.”

Some fields also have stripe rust, which can kill wheat early if not controlled.

“This year the stripe rust is bad enough to kill a good portion of the flag leaf,” Naysmith said. “If the flag leaf goes, the plant won’t die but it will decrease the amount of grain each has. It’s just a question of how much. We’re not really going to know until harvest.”

Agronomist Andy Kelsey, fresh out of college, watches over an area that overlaps with Naysmith’s and continues east.

“A lot depends on if guys sprayed fungicide,” Kelsey said. “Whoever did will likely see better yields.”

Kelsey expects an above-average wheat harvest.

“We’ve had ideal conditions and good timing with the weather,” he said. “Still, there’ve been some over-saturation issues. Patchy looking fields could be a result of standing water.”

Mike Thomas, branch manager in Marion, said rain in May washed fertilizer out of fields, and moisture has been good not only for corn and wheat, but also for weeds.

“The wheat is all pretty thick, but we are expecting weeds like cheat to be coming on in the thinner stands,” he said. “We’re starting to see a little mildew. There was even a little frost damage in May.

“We just need some dry days. The corn just needs some sun to shine on it, too. If it gets hot and the wind blows, the wheat will dry down pretty fast.”

He is optimistic about wheat.

“The wheat is shaping up to be way better than last year,” Thomas said, “Last year a lot of it never grew over a foot tall. But wheat prices are still depressed for some reason.”

As of Thursday wheat was at $4.86 a bushel. A year ago it was at $6.75. Corn is at $3.39: it was around $5 last year.

“Soy beans are at $8.99, which is about average for a bushel,” Thomas said. “But my guess is that could go up if Oklahoma and Nebraska have trouble. I would think wheat would go up, too, if Texas and Oklahoma can’t get in to cut their fields.”

Thomas noted that moisture delays might cause the harvesting of various crops to overlap.

“Farmers are itching to get out in the field and work,” he said. “The weather’s been keeping them out. I have a feeling it’ll all get balled up and happen at once.”

Last modified June 17, 2015

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