Wheat watchers report – July 13, 2021

The wheat harvesting and yield situation varies across Michigan.

Map of Michigan with some counties highlighted in green.
The counties in green represent the counties covered in this report.

For several years before his retirement from full-time wheat support, Michigan State University Extension Martin Nagelkirk has worked with a wheat watchers group to gather perspectives from wheat growers, extension educators and agribusiness representatives from across the state about wheat growth, development and the progress they see in the field. Wheat watchers' comments are now being collected by Nagelkirk along with Ricardo Costa and Dennis Pennington and shared bi-weekly on the MSU Extension Wheat webpage. This is the last issue of the season unless something unforeseen comes up.

The wheat team would like to thank every wheat watcher volunteer around the state for their help with this project.

Below we share what wheat watchers across the state saw in their wheat fields between July 7-11, 2021.

Lapeer County (Lapeer) – Phil Kaatz (July 7)

Wheat crop is rated an 8 and is fully matured. Harvest started on July 2. Farmers are getting better than expected yields, but a little below average for the region. The hot, dry weather during grain fill lowered the upper ends of the yield expectations.

Monroe County (Ida) – Mark Metz (July 7)

The crop is rated 10. Producers started wheat harvest on July 2 with yields appearing to be above last year's levels. Wheat is good, but some are flat from a storm. Moisture has been great, but test wheat is only average. Rain today (July 7) and a rainy pattern is forming up, hopefully it won't damage the one-third of the crop still in fields, although it will likely hurt test weight from now on.

Bay County (Auburn) – Chris Schmidt (July 7)

The crop is rated a 7. Most farmers I've talked with the past few days say their wheat yields are off 10% compared to last year. Hot and dry weather for too long combined with below-freezing temperatures during emergence has taken the top end of the yield potential from what looked like a stunning crop during spring green-up. The weekend of July 4 launched the 2021 wheat harvest in the Auburn, Michigan, area. Harvest is well underway, with some farms already wrapping up while others are just getting going. Planting date and variety selection are both factoring into harvest progress. On our farm, we're focusing on taking the white wheat first while keeping our fingers crossed that the reds will endure the wet, humid weather a bit better. My dad always used to say that long periods of dryness are often followed by long periods of wetness. That expression is confirmed once again in 2021 with challenging growing conditions throughout the season.

Huron County (Owendale) – Jeffery Krohn (July 8)

Harvest started a week ago, and its quality is mixed. Most wheat is rated as 6 and yields are equal to last year. Some early wheat has sprouted, and the falling numbers are poor. Current rains are going to reduce the quality of the remaining wheat out in the fields.

Newaygo County (Newaygo) – Mitchell Murray (July 8)

Wheat is rated a 5 and physiologically mature. At this point, it is too early to tell if yields will be lower or higher than last year's. Harvesting just started and we see a little sprout in most samples, but not bad yet. We also found a bit of downed wheat. Growers need to pay attention to quality and look for sprouts. If it gets to feed wheat, take non-feed wheat first and then come back to feed wheat. The 1.5 inches of rain this week will hurt this crop—more forecast for the weekend.

Gratiot County (Middleton) – Mackenzy Blair (July 9)

The crop is rated as 7. Yields in the area are down from last year. Harvest started on July 5, and about 20% of the crop off so far. Yields are mid-80s for the most part. Test weights are a little off at 57 on average. Nervous about the rain we received and the next seven-day forecast. Hopeful that the weather changes to sunny and windy and the quality of the wheat crop holds up.

Ingham County (Mason) – Dennis Pennington (July 9)

The crop is rated 6 is and at Feekes 11.4 (mature). Yields are down compared to last year. Harvest started on July 5 and is moving along, albeit slowed up by the recent rains. Harvesting will continue when it dries out again this weekend. Drought has reduced yields in this area. Grain quality is OK. No falling number problems and vomitoxin levels are low. Wheat harvest started in areas hit hardest by the drought first. The Thumb area is still on the drought monitor. Parts of Huron County are well below county averages. Tuscola state yield trials were average. White wheat continues to have falling number problems brought on by late rains causing preharvest sprout. Vomitoxin levels have been low across the state. Some reports of shattering have come in. Lodged wheat is a challenge in many fields.

Sanilac County (Deckerville) – Reggie VanSickle (July 11)

The crop is rated as 8-9. Harvest started on July 9 (this is a week ahead of typical), with yields equal to or lower than last year. Many disgruntled growers and quality issues such as 20% grain moistures, inconsistent falling numbers and shrunken kernels. The dry weather during kernel fill combined with the onset of a rainy period has produced these quality problems. The weather forecasts rain from Sunday-Thursday, being very concerning given the quality issues already reported.

Sanilac County (Sandusky) – Martin Nagelkirk (July 11)

The crop is rated 8. Yields will likely be near last year's level. Maybe we end up with yields mostly within the range of 85 to 115 bushels. Harvest began almost 10 days ago in the western part of Thumb, while only just got a start in the eastern edge of the Thumb along Lake Huron. Dry down after maturity and rewetting has been slow due to weather conditions. Yields are fairly good, but the quality is worrisome. Failing numbers for whites have been low and fragile (poised to slip at the slightest excuse). Test weights have been OK, with small kernels having maintained density while supporting test weight levels. Few if any DON concerns. This crop needs to come off to hold quality! Again, current damp weather has hindered harvest and seriously threatens quality, especially white wheat.

Huron County (Bad Axe) – Tim Wilkie (July 12)

The crop is rated a 7or 8. Yields will likely be similar to last year. Started harvest about a week ago. Some wheat was taken Saturday and Sunday but was slow going. So far, this white wheat area is maybe 60-70% complete. Quality has mostly been OK relative to sprouting, but it will be scary to face a couple of rain day delays this week. Hopefully, a good chunk will be able to be taken today—no or few reports of high DON. Test weight is still holding reasonably well. Moisture contents are mostly 18-22%. Rain is forecasted for the next couple of days.

Isabella County (Mount Pleasant) – Paul Gross (July 12)

Crop may prove to be above average, and some growers may experience some of their best wheat in a long time. Harvest started last week, but overall the harvest is just getting underway. Much of the wheat is still standing, so difficult to project. I have seen signs of Fusarium head blight but still expecting low DON levels overall. Falling number scores should also be OK as of now, though wet weather is predicted. This area avoided the droughty conditions suffered by the rest of the state, and some of our late wheat was not exposed to as much of the hot weather during grain fill. Overall, the crop looks very good though wet weather going forward could lead to some sprouting, particularly to our white wheat acreage.

Gratiot County (Carson City) – Bin Wilson (July 12)

Currently, I am rating the wheat crop an 8, though earlier in the season it was a 9 or 10. Heavy rain and some hail caused significant lodging in this area—20% lodged at this point. Grain yields are good but rarely great, with the range being 80 to 125 bushels. Some acreage was being harvested starting a week ago but was not quite ready. Wheat harvested this weekend was better but still slow going, and wet weather this week will hamper progress. Only 40% harvested. As mentioned, wheat yields are good. Despite high lodging, test weight, falling number and DON levels are reasonably good so far.

Ingham County – Steve Wagner (July 12)

I would rate the crop mostly around a 6, while yields are average to above average. Harvesting started last week but progress is slow. About 20% harvested to date. Yields are expected to be pretty good despite rough weather during the grain fill window—a bit more lodging this year with maybe 2% of acreage laying down. With most of the crop still in the field, the overall quality of the crop is still unknown. Rain again today with more wet weather in the forecast.

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