Wheat watchers week of April 1, 2024

See how the wheat crop is progressing across the state this week.

A map of Michigan with colored sections to represent wheat watcher zones.
The Michigan wheat watcher zones. Map source: https://gisgeography.com/michigan-county-map/

Welcome to the start of this season’s Wheat Watchers! This report will come out weekly until most of the state hits flower and then will switch to bi-weekly until most of the state has harvest. This report is only possible because of our agribusinesses and farmers who participate as wheat watchers. If you are interested in being a wheat watcher, especially if you see your area isn’t represented, please reach out to Michigan State University Extension field crops educator Jenna Falor at falorjen@msu.edu.

Overall, this week reporters are seeing wheat stands in good condition ranging in Feekes growth stage 3-5. This means that the crop has mostly greened up but many report the crop greened up and stalled with the cooler weather the past week or two.

Southwest region 

We had two wheat watchers reporting in from the southwest region. One is from St. Joseph County near Centreville, Michigan, and the other is from Allegan County near Wayland, Michigan. Wheat is reported to be at Feekes 5. The wheat watcher near Centreville is reporting that it’s been too wet in the past week or so for farmers to get out into the fields. They are hoping this weekend will give them a chance to get out. But even with the cold and rain in the area the soils are draining pretty well, so there are no ponding issues. The wheat watcher near Wayland is reporting that most fields have seen a green-up nitrogen pass but no herbicide has been applied yet. They also reported that the development slowed with the return of more normal, cooler temperatures.

Southeast region 

We had one wheat watcher reporting from Jackson County near Rives Junction, Michigan. Wheat has reached a Feekes 5. Some spring-applied nitrogen at green-up has occurred

East central (Thumb) region 

We had two wheat watchers reporting from the Thumb. Both are from Huron County near Owendale and Ubly, Michigan. Wheat has reached Feekes 3 with most of the area having yet to break dormancy. Frost-seeded clover has been applied but other than that almost no field work has been done. Growers are just waiting for the wheat to break dormancy or hit green-up to apply nitrogen. There was very little winter kill. The past week has been pretty wet, but very little ponding has been seen. Since most of the wheat in this area hasn’t broken dormancy, the rest hasn’t hit green up, it hasn’t really put a hindrance on field work for wheat.

wheat plants in early stages of growth
Photo by Jenna Falor, MSU Extension

Central region 

We had two wheat watchers reporting in from the central region. One in Isabella County near Mount Pleasant, Michigan, and one in Ingham County near Mason, Michigan. Wheat is reported at Feekes 3-4, with the wheat watcher near Mason reporting Feekes 4 and the one in Mount Pleasant reporting Feekes 3-4, depending on the field. In the Mount Pleasant area, it’s been too wet to get in the fields and there is some weed pressure. The wheat watcher near Mason is reporting some fields have had spring nitrogen applied, but not all, and no herbicide application has occurred as it’s been too cold and rainy. They have seen some weed pressure with some winter annuals (chickweed, henbit, purple deadnettle) seeming to have gotten an early start. They also note that they have found powdery mildew in one field that was planted early and at a high seeding rate.

Overall, wheat seems to have survived winter well, and warm temperatures late in the fall allowed wheat to continue to grow and produce tillers. There is some water ponding now due to the recent rains. The Mason area watcher is also reporting that the wheat dormancy has broken but it’s not fully greened up.

West central region 

We had one wheat watcher reporting in from the west central region located in Mason County near Custer, Michigan.

North region 

We had no wheat watchers reporting from the northern area this week.

Extra notes from Dennis Pennington, MSU wheat systems specialist 

When it does warm back up, expect the crop to move rapidly through the growth stages. After Feekes 6 arrives, late season frost could be a concern, depending on how early we reach that.

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