Hail was the last ‘nail in the coffin’ for some wheat
Despite drought, freeze, and hailstorms, some areas still managed to harvest wheat for grain.
COLLEGE STATION -- Recent hailstorms in the Northern Plains were the final straw for much of the wheat there, but many areas still have the chance to make decent yields, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
“We had a lot challenges in the wheat crop this year,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head.
First there was drought in much of the state, which slowed or stymied germination, and had more impact than anything else, Miller said. Then, on top of the drought, there were six recorded freeze events between March 25 and May 3 in the Panhandle. The eastern part of the state had two major freeze events in some locations.
“But the last nail in the coffin for much of it have been hail storms,” he said. “There have been two major hail storms across the Northern Plains just this last week, and they caused a lot of damage on wheat that might have survived the freezes.”
Miller noted that he was at a May 22 crops field day at Adder, which is northeast of Fort Worth, where he observed wheat hit by hail.
“Much of the wheat had multiple freezes on it, but had tillered out again,” he said. “As young as the tillers were, they were still destined to make grain, but after the hail, it was all laid down pretty flat.”
Despite drought in the fall that delayed germination, there is still good wheat in North Texas, said Miller.
“Much of that wheat didn’t come up until January, but to me it still looks like it’s going to make a very good crop,” he said.
The South Texas, Rolling Plains and Southwest Texas regions will have some wheat, but because of the drought, it will be a very light crop, he said. Central Texas had some freezes too, but it’s surprising how good the wheat looked, he added.
“We had cool weather late, and cool weather does a lot to promote wheat growth,” he said. “The cool weather does a lot to offset and compensate for the freeze damage.
“And the wheat plant may compensate for freeze damage as later tillers are larger and have more seed spikes. Before bloom, you may have more of the seed in the spike set. If it’s already bloomed, you have bigger seed size, and we’ve had some pretty decent weather since the freezes.”
The last U.S. Department of Agriculture crop estimate put projected wheat yields at 54 million bushels, which Miller said he considers “a little exaggerated.”
“But that was our last best estimate,” he said. “The lowest I can remember is 35 million bushels; the highest, 160 million bushels. The 10-year average is about 90 million to 100 million bushels.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week of May 28 through June 3:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported rangeland, pastures, row crops, and livestock continued to improve because of rains during the last two weeks. More rain was needed as temperatures rose and the moisture received soaked up by thirsty soils. Hay producers expected to make a good crop as early cuttings looked good on coastal Bermuda grass. The wheat harvest was delayed. Fawns were up and running, and turkey hens were setting, both indicators that wildlife should be in good condition through early summer.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported showers fell during the last weeks of May, which boosted the growth of cotton, sorghum, and soybeans. Pasture conditions improved, but with rising temperatures and winds, producers are continuing to evaluate stocking rates. Some areas reported 0.5 inch to 8 inches of rain, filling up many stock tanks and giving a greatly improved outlook for hay and forage. Grain sorghum and sesame planted on failed cotton acres was emerging. Wheat was being harvested in some counties and cotton was improving.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported soil-moisture levels were adequate to short throughout the region. Rangeland, pastures and crops generally improved in most areas due to scattered showers during the last few weeks. Atascosa County peanut producers were preparing land and expected to begin planting very soon.
Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.