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Issue No. 17, Article 3/July 30, 2010

Reviewing the 2010 Illinois Wheat Crop

The 2010 wheat season will be remembered as one of the worst ever in Illinois. As the result of wheat quality and price problems in 2009, followed by a very wet fall and late harvest of the 2009 corn and soybean crops, planted acreage dropped by 59%, from 850,000 acres in 2009 to 350,000 in 2010. Yields in 2010 were highly variable, ranging from 37 bushels per acre in the western crop reporting district to 74 in the eastern district. The preliminary state yield estimate for 2010 is only 54 bushels per acre, the lowest since 2002 and about 6 bushels less than the average over the past decade.

One factor that affected yield in most Illinois fields was late planting; according to the official estimate, only 35% of the crop was planted by November 1 last fall. The winter was favorable for keeping wheat alive, and April was a very good month, with warm and mostly dry weather. This resulted in good nitrogen nutrition and low levels of foliar disease and helped the crop catch up in its development. Heading/flowering was not much later than normal. But rainfall during the heading period, especially in western Illinois, resulted in heavy scab infestations. Most areas of southern Illinois had less scab than in 2009, but few areas escaped it entirely.

Time will tell if we will have a rebound in acreage planted this fall, but there are some positives. Prices have rebounded some, and the corn and soybean crops will come off much earlier this fall, so wheat planting will not be as late unless the fall turns wet again.

The results of the 2010 wheat variety trials are available at vt.cropsci.illinois.edu/wheat.html. Two of the trials--DeKalb and Belleville--were lost due to water damage. Yields at the others were good to very good, reflecting in part the fact that they were planted on time. The last table of the report (which can be downloaded at the website) includes Fusarium head scab ratings from Dr. Fred Kolb's scab trial at Urbana.

Seed companies were allowed to include wheat varieties treated with seed-applied insecticide, and most did so. We also entered both treated and untreated seed of several varieties at each location as a test of yield response to this input. Due perhaps to late planting and cool weather, aphids were not much in evidence this past year, so response to insecticides was limited.--Emerson Nafziger

Emerson Nafziger

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