Futures International LLC is predicting a record abandonment of 24% of the winter wheat crop, attributing the loss to drought and continued poor winter conditions in much of the southern Great Plains. That leaves many farmers considering if, when and what to replant.
"As you all know, having a good stand in the spring is key to a productive winter wheat crop," says North Dakota State University Extension agronomist Joel Ransom.
Several factors enter into this equation, including the environment (with the temperature at the crown having the biggest impact), the state of hardening, the variety sown and the size and vigor of the plant in the fall. Now that spring has arrived, farmers should take stock of their plant populations before making any replant decisions. In some instances, even half a crop is a better option than starting over, he says.
"Typically, if you have a 50% stand that’s fairly uniform, it’s still a go," Ransom says. "If you have eight plants per square foot, that’s about a third of what we’d consider optimum, but if it’s uniform, we can still live with it."
Farmers should also investigate "patchiness" in a field as well as relative crop vigor, Ransom adds. Most years, farmers don’t pull the trigger on replant decisions too quickly, but it does happen from time to time, he says. For instance, impatience tends to creep in during springs where the weather turns warm very quickly.
"Small seedlings that barely emerged will take some time before an accurate assessment can be made," he says.
Extension agronomists in other states echo this wait-and-see approach.
"We are suggesting farmers wait until green-up to evaluate," says Laura Lindsey, assistant professor with The Ohio State University. "We are having below average temperatures in Ohio right now, so green-up hasn't happened yet."
Overall, Lindsey says she is optimistic about Ohio’s 2013 winter wheat crop.
For recent state-by-state crop analysis from the USDA for multiple crops, including winter wheat, click here.