Unless the weather decides to turn wet and cold, wheat harvest should be in full swing when you read this. As expected, yields have been all over the place so far in our fair state, ranging from a few bushels to 40 bushels or more per acre. Several fields in Stafford County were in the 50 bushel range. So far test weights have been over 60 pounds per bushel and protein levels over 12%. So while the yields aren’t great, the quality appears good and the price holding. Now the trick is to bring in the crop before rain or other weather affects what we have. If the weather holds, many fields will be done by the middle of the week and farmers can decide what to do next.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, producers have a decision to make after the wheat comes off. If certain persistent herbicides have been used, the choice is pretty easy, go back to wheat this fall or fallow until next spring. If you aren’t locked out by your herbicide program and want to double-crop after wheat, life is a bit more complicated. The first step is to dust off your powers of prognostication and pick one of the following options:
· The drought is over. Precipitation and temperatures will be normal.
· The drought returns. Recent rainfall got our hopes up but the summer will be hot and dry.
· The drought is over. Precipitation patterns have changed and we are entering a wet period with normal temperatures.
· Sporadic, hit and miss rainfall with normal to above normal temperatures. Better than the last nine months but not great.
There are more options but you get the idea. The most recent information from the Climate Prediction Center for the summer is an equal chance of above or below normal precipitation. The temperature outlook for the same period is for an equal chance of above or below normal temperatures. Not much help is it. It would be easier if they predicted one extreme or the other. Let’s say you are feeling lucky and will have at least normal precipitation.
While you are predicting summer weather, you also have to choose from one of these options before you choose a crop and variety/hybrid:
· Typical fall with “average” weather. Killing frost at the end of October.
· Cool, wet fall with a cooling frost at the end of October.
· Typical or cool fall with an early frost
· Typical or cool fall with a late frost (mid-November)
· Hot, dry fall with an early frost
· Hot, dry fall with a late frost
Now you can put your choice from the first group with the one from this group and make your cropping choice(s).
As my space is about out for this week we will finish up June 26. I don’t mean to make light of this topic or say it’s an impossible choice. Successful producers make these decisions every year, spread their risk and maximize their chances for success. Hopefully, if you didn’t already, you have a newfound appreciation of what goes into the decision making process for a successful farm. Next week, we’ll examine the agronomic side of the double-crop equation.