WQC 2001 Eastern Soft Wheat Tour
by James Quinton
On the map is a crop scout "trail" traveled by one of our participants this year. A handheld GPS tracking device was used to pinpoint wheat fields that were visited and then to plot them on this map. Participants scouted with a different driver or passenger each day. This is the composite route of just one individual who rode in several vehicles. It represents only one combination of pathways the Tour scouted. Other paths were farther to the south in Arkansas and also farther to the east in Ohio, for example.
The table above reviews tiller counts for the particular sub-groups of counties that the Tour surveys each season. The 2001 results are at the extreme right. Tiller counts are only one objective yield component. The number of berries per head and grain weights would be two more. If all these could be utilized in a more detailed yield model, the results of the Tour might be more particular. However, grain weight cannot be determined until harvest, and counting berries has not been practical. Thus the Tour has been limited to finding relative changes in tiller populations. As a rule of thumb, there is approximately 1 bu/acre of yield potential for each 1 tiller/ft2 (a 1:1 ratio).
Tiller counts are low this season in the surveyed counties. Poor seeding conditions last fall were a major influence for the Midsouth and River Valley regions. In the Lake Erie region we donít know what reduced the tiller populations. That was quite a surprise! Drought conditions across Arkansas, the Missouri Bootheel and the southern portions of Illinois and Indiana during April and May appear to have also stunted head size. We found many heads with just two berries per spikelet, very few with three, and virtually none with four this year. The southern areas of the Tour are not having such a good year. However, growing conditions in NE Indiana, NW Ohio, and Michigan are nearly ideal. Larger head sizes there could partially offset the impact of low tiller counts.
Chronic wheat diseases appeared to be almost absent. Powdery mildew was noted in the Lake Erie region, but at low levels. That crop is just now heading and flowering; vulnerability is high. However, odds for an outbreak of Head Scab up there seem low due to cold temperatures.
Army worm activity was found, though it was not a universal problem. Damage seemed to be localized. Alerts were loudly and universally distributed, however, and that may have given the impression of a bigger problem than actually existed. Where worms were active grass pastures suffered more extensively than field crops. Spraying seemed to control worms. Lack of treatment did result in some damage to wheat, mainly the removal of flag leaves and that will likely limit grain filling. Yields and test weights in damaged spots could be reduced. Overall it isnít a big factor.