Wheat watchers week of May 15, 2023

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

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 report will come out weekly until we are through flowering across much of the state and then frequency will be bi-weekly through 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 Jenna Falor, Michigan State University Extension field crops educator, at falorjen@msu.edu.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Wheat will be partnering to host two regional wheat field days in MSU variety test plots. The Isabella County meeting will be Tuesday, May 23, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Hauck Seed Farms, located on Zeien Road a quarter mile north of Beal City Road on the east side of the road. The Huron County meeting will be Thursday, May 25, from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Darwin Snellers, located on Canboro Road just west of Shebeon Road.

Overall, reporters are seeing wheat stands in good condition ranging in Feekes growth stages 6-9 with a few fields almost reaching Feekes 10. Almost all applications of nitrogen, herbicides, fungicides and plant growth regulators have been complete. This means a break in field work until anyone applying fungicides at T2 must get back out there. Across the state the lack of rain, while not a problem currently, is beginning to be a concern if it continues.

Southwest region

We had one wheat watcher reporting in from the southwest region covering all of St. Joseph County. Wheat is reported to be averaging Feekes 8. Some are planning for a fungicide application now to protect the flag leaf but other than that, most spring field work has been completed. There are currently no concerns about pest pressure. The area has been dry over the past week. Statistically, the area is approximately 1 inch behind in rain, but some wheat fields the wheat watcher visited seemed drier than that, however the lack of moisture hasn’t seemed to affect the wheat yet. Over the next week, there is a predicted 1.4 inches evapotranspiration rate with 0.5 inches or less of rain predicted. Time to keep an eye on moisture and if you have irrigation; it may be time to consider a maintenance amount at this point.

If you are interested in receiving southwest Michigan crop updates, MSU Extension field crops educator Eric Anderson puts out a weekly update through MSU Extension Field Crops news.

Southeast region

We had one wheat watcher reporting in from Monroe County near Ida, Michigan. They are reporting Feekes 8/9. There are no concerns of pest pressure currently. Field work is done for the time being. The wheat is reported to be growing well and with the dry weather, they could use some rain.

A wheat field.
Photo by Brad Kamprath.

East central (Thumb) region

We had three wheat watchers reporting from the Thumb: two from Huron County near Elkton and Ubly, Michigan, respectively, and one from Sanilac County near Deckerville, Michigan. Most of the wheat across the area is being reported at Feekes 7 with a few fields near the Deckerville area at an early Feekes 8. The field work is mostly complete including nitrogen, herbicide, fungicide and growth regulators. No particular concerns with pest pressure at the moment. There have been a few frosty mornings lately, which has caused slower growth.

Central region

We had five wheat watchers reporting in from the central region. They were from Bay County near Auburn, Michigan, Ingham County near Mason, Michigan, Montcalm County near Trufant, Michigan, and Gratiot County near Alma and Middleton, Michigan. Watchers report wheat in Gratiot County is at Feekes 6-8, Montcalm County at Feekes 7-8, Bay County at Feekes 7 (almost to 8) and Ingham County at Feekes 8-9 (almost to 10). Field work is complete for the time being, with some farmers opting not to apply a herbicide because of low weed pressure in Gratiot County.

As the crop beings to head, the next concern is deciding whether to apply a fungicide for fusarium head blight. There isn’t much concern on pest pressure but there has been some powdery mildew in the Gratiot County area. The Middleton and Auburn areas are reporting some rain would be great. Ingham County is reporting there is adequate moisture for the wheat crop. Overall, the wheat crop is currently in great condition.

Updates on moth counts and crop conditions are given live each week on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. on the MSU Extension Field Crops Facebook page by Monica Jean.

Photo by Steve Whittington, MSU Extension.

West central and north regions

We had no wheat watchers reporting from the west central or northern areas this week.

Extra notes from Dennis Pennington, MSU wheat systems specialist

Generally, we have had adequate moisture for the wheat crop. The cool weather pattern is conducive to high yield potential for wheat. We have the foundation built right now to have a record-yield wheat crop in Michigan. Hopefully, the normal to cooler than normal pattern will persist through grain fill. A few fields are exhibiting sulfur deficiency. The most severe case I’ve seen this year can be seen in the photo below.

Sulfur deficiency in wheat.
Photo by Dennis Pennington, MSU.

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