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Wheat acres up slightly amid good growing conditions

published: March 26th 2020
by: Adam Russell
source: Texas AgriLife Today

Wheat acres in Texas were up and facing little to no threat from pests or disease in grazing and grain fields, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists. 

Jourdan Bell, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo, said planted acres in the Texas High Plains are slightly up from last year, with approximately 2.2 million acres planted. 

For much of the region, there was good soil moisture at planting as a result of late-September and early October rains, Bell said. However, some areas did not receive rainfall and wheat was sowed into dry ground. 

For the northern High Plains, or Panhandle region, there has been below-average snowfall resulting in dry conditions, she said. Fortunately, recent rains brought much-needed moisture to the whole region. 

Even with below-average winter moisture, wheat-for-grain conditions have been fair to good, she said. Wheat-for-forage conditions have declined in recent weeks due to a lack of moisture for spring growth. 

“Some producers were already running pivots to irrigate wheat pastures,” she said. “Conditions were warming resulting in fast wheat development. Recent rains will help tilling and forage production and ultimately improve conditions for producers who will graze out those pastures.” 

Producers pull-off/cutoff dates for grazing are determined by crop insurance, she said. But March 15 was the last day to pull cattle off wheat that is insured as a dual-purpose crop.  

Bell said many producers were leaving cattle on wheat and hoping for cattle prices to improve rather than go to grain. 

Pests and disease

Army cutworms are active across the region, Bell said, but aphid and mite pressure is low. Disease pressure was also low.

Ken Obasa, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension plant pathologist, Amarillo, said information from AgriLife Extension county agents and crop consultants indicated few cases of disease. 

“Overall, there were no instances of leaf or stripe rust that has come through the lab,” he said. “However, tan spot and one instance of spot blotch, caused by Bipolaris sorokiniana, have come through the lab.”

Obasa said there had also been cases of Alternaria and that warm, humid conditions were favorable for the disease. The weather is also favorable for tan spot, leaf rust and other seedling wheat diseases. 

“Stripe rust prefers cooler temperatures, so as temperatures continue to warm, the chances for stripe rust will decline,” he said. “Overall, growers should look for foliar diseases other than rust that can spread.”

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