Wheat watchers 2023 wrap up

See how the wheat faired across most of Michigan.

A map of Michigan with counties highlighted showing where wheat watchers are located.
The Michigan wheat watcher zones. Map source: https://gisgeography.com/michigan-county-map/

This is the final wheat watchers report of the 2023 wheat season. Thank you to all our wheat watchers this year who helped make these reports possible. Most of Michigan has made good progress on wheat harvest despite the late rains that have slowed some areas. Some of our most northern reporters have not completed harvest yet either.

Southwest region

We had no wheat watchers reporting from the southwest region this week.

Southeast region

We had two wheat watchers reporting from Monroe County near Ida, Michigan. Both grow soft red winter wheat. Both reported average yield of 100 to just over 100 with no variation seen between soil types. There were no issues for these growers with falling numbers, though one did report that slight sprouting was starting to occur in the late harvest. The average test weight for both was 60 and each saw the test weight decline as harvest progressed due to rains.

Additional comments from the wheat watchers:

  • “In true ‘wheat is a weed’ style, the crop exceeded expectations by 10-20 bushels per acre, producing a crop with only about half an inch of rain throughout the reproductive phase. Overall, cooler weather helped the situation. Still an incredible yield given the circumstances.”
  • “Yields better than expected. With the heat and dry at flowering I expected to take a big yield hit but we didn’t.”

East central (Thumb) region

We had two wheat watchers reporting from the Thumb, one from Huron County near Ubly, Michigan, and one from Sanilac County near Deckerville Michigan. Wheat harvest has been underway for almost a month across the area. While a lot of wheat has been run, the watcher in Deckerville reports there is still 20-25% of the crop in the fields near them. The watcher in Sanilac County saw an average of 117 bushels per acre (bu/ac) with little variation based on soil type.

Falling numbers have been all over the board in the area with fields of the same variety that are side by side running vastly different numbers. The watcher in Ubly reports having a field test as low as 128; this was on a white winter wheat. The grower from Deckerville tested twice with numbers both coming in above 300. The test weights reported by both watchers were around 58.

Central region

We had four wheat watchers reporting from the central region: one in Bay County near Auburn, Michigan (soft white and soft red), one in Montcalm County near Stanton, Michigan (soft red), and two in Gratiot County near Middleton (90% soft red, 10% soft white) and Carson City, Michigan (soft red). The yields reported in this region were all over the board. The watcher in Bay County reports an average of 85 bu/ac. A watcher in Gratiot County says the average was also 85 bu/ac, but he heard yields as low as 30 and as high as 120 bu/ac. The watcher near Carson City reports 105 bu/ac average, with yield variations heavily based on soil types due to dry weather at grain fill. The watcher in Montcalm County reported 55-70 bu/ac averages.

The reports back on testing numbers was limited to one watcher in Gratiot County reporting that red wheat held up great with almost all of it above 300 even at the end of harvest. White wheat fell off after the first two weeks with the majority of white coming in now being feed wheat quality, which is below 200. The test weight for the watcher in the Bay County area was in the high 50s for both red and white. The watchers in Gratiot County report that it started 59-62 but has decreased to 56-58.5 coming in currently. The watcher in Montcalm County saw test weights of 60 with no complaints on quality.

Additional comments from the wheat watchers:

  • “The 2023 wheat crop surpassed all of my expectations. Where the bushels came from, I can’t say with certainty as I was prepared for 50- to 60-bushel wheat at harvest following the long, hot dry spell we endured during grain fill. Even more surprising was the kernel size, which I expected to be small, turned out to be very respectable, ranging from 10,000 to 13,500 seeds per pound (smaller for red, larger for white), which is normal. White wheat deteriorated very rapidly following the rain event in the midst of harvest with significant sprout damage occurring. But the red wheat, again, showed incredible resiliency despite the hot and adverse precipitation during harvest. Learned a few things from 2023 and solidified a bunch of things I already knew.”
  • “Tremendous yield potential, just got too hot and dry to maximize yield during grain fill.”
  • “Better than expected yields. Overall quality was very good with 0 vomitoxin and good falling numbers until the white wheat falling numbers fell off.”
  • “Despite adverse conditions in the spring/early summer in precipitation, the wheat crop was good. Straw tonnage is down with 2-4 large bales per acre. The price of straw is good and one fourth of ROI on wheat this year is from straw.”

West central and north region

We had one wheat watcher report in from the north region and as of July 29, harvest had not yet began in Grand Traverse County for the grower.

We had no wheat watchers report from the west central region.

Extra notes from Dennis Pennington, MSU wheat systems specialist

Pennington reported an average of 102.9 bu/ac at the Michigan State University Mason Research Farm. There were a wide range of yields with light textured soils that had a low water holding capacity having yields in the low 70s and heavier soils with higher water holding capacity having near record yields as high as 145 bushels per acre. When harvest started, falling numbers were above 300. As harvest progressed, rainfall caused hotspots around the state with low falling numbers. In those areas, falling numbers below 200 were reported. The lowest number he heard was 88. He would estimate that about 30% of the crop statewide had falling number issues (either docked or rejected and sold as feed wheat). Test weights ran normal at 58-61.

Overall, yields were better than most expected. There were extremely wide ranges of yields in fields, based mostly on soil type. He expects yields to be down slightly from last year, but above the United States Department of Agricultlure projection of 76 bu/ac.

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