May 22-26, 2000
Soft red winter wheat prospects are very good this year. Wheat disease and insect pressures were mainly localized and not a threat to the crop as a whole. A relatively high-quality SRW crop should be available for consumption this summer. However, tiller counts were significantly reduced versus a year ago in two-thirds of the area scouted. Evidently the crop grew very rapidly in those sub-regions through the tillering stage early in the season. There are better tiller counts than last year in the northernmost counties of the Tour area.
Subjectively, head sizes appear larger than usual in many of the counties where thinner stands were found. This may partially offset the impact of reduced tiller counts on final yields. The continuing downtrend in SRW acreage was also somewhat apparent except in Arkansas where seeded acreage was expanded this season. Successful "double-cropping" wheat with soybeans is a big economic advantage in the South.
Harvest should start earlier than normal this year throughout the 7-state area. The crop is developing farther ahead of normal than Ive ever witnessed previously. The same rapid accumulation of Growing Degree Days (GDD) that kept the tiller populations down also boosted the crop through subsequent stages of development.
Moisture conditions have been favorable for wheat (dry for corn/soybeans) in all areas scouted. East of the Mississippi River there is more often too much precipitation for good wheat development than too little. In years with wetter weather patterns diseases tend to bother the crop in a bigger way. This being a somewhat drier year, there is very little disease pressure. In NW Ohio at the Head Scab "detection station" fusarium spores in the air were quite plentiful, but the temperature and moisture conditions to germinate spores were evidently not quite met. It was a very close call there.
Please remember that the Tour visits only selected areas within each state. Yield indications do not apply to a states entire wheat acreage. It would promote a fallacy to compare Tour results directly with state-wide yield estimates. While the areas scouted exert a significant influence on the magnitude and direction of yield change in these important SRW states, they are only a subset of all the counties that produce wheat. For example, in Illinois the Tour surveyed 27 counties, whereas there are 102 counties in Illinois and all of them produce wheat. This subset of Illinois counties represented only 44% of the states wheat acreage in 1994. The Indiana counties scouted represent about 40% of that states acreage. The Arkansas counties evaluated contain 70% of the total wheat acreage there. Only the USDAs National Agricultural Statistics Service through careful statistical modeling can evaluate 100% of the wheat acreage.
The Tour is timed to supplement public information about crop conditions during a period of rapid change. Rather than compete with official estimates released near the first of each month, the Tour provides an update to the public on current field conditions and comparative tiller counts as a useful indicator of production potential. It is also an educational forum that attracts many participants from all over the agricultural community. People who use agricultural data in their jobs may learn the fundamental facts about wheat production and crop economics, make new acquaintances, and get some useful impressions of important issues facing the industry.
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