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Preparing for the 2016 Wheat Crop Part I
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The year in the title isn’t a typo. Even though it is only Aug. 2, good producers are making their decisions for the 2016 wheat crop. Even though planting is more than a month away, many producers are already facing potential challenges, especially for those planning to plant wheat after summer crops.
Many summer crops, especially corn, were planted late, in some cases excessively late, due to wet soil conditions. That coupled with a cool May and most of June has resulted in delayed crop development. Tasseling and silking for most fields was late and several fields in the area have just or are just flowering. The majority of grain sorghum hasn’t headed and some may not until late August/early September, which is a separate problem. Soybeans were also late but this isn’t as much of a problem as for the grass crops.  
The problem is two-fold for producers wanting to go back to wheat this fall.  First is harvesting these crops in a timely fashion and getting wheat in the ground by mid-October to allow time for wheat establishment. This also compresses the time to prepare the soil for planting and means many producers will be trying to harvest summer crops, prepare for wheat planting, and trying to plant wheat at the same time. Second is that these summer crops will use soil moisture later into the season and allow less time for soil moisture recharge, especially sorghum.
Tied to the first two points is the projected weather forecast for the next thirty to sixty days. The Climate Prediction Center is predicting below normal temperatures and above normal rainfall. Above normal rainfall is certainly beneficial as long as field work can be performed and is needed for establishing wheat. However, below normal temperatures would slow down corn and sorghum development and maturity. Through yesterday, the K-State automated weather network showed Growing Degree Unit (GDD) accumulation over 100 units short of the long-term average for corn and almost 150 units short for sorghum. This is in spite of the recent hot weather. For the Hays area accumulation is just about normal and La Crosse is actually a bit over the long-term average. That doesn’t sound too bad but two factor needs consideration.
First, the GDD number K-State provides are from a given date in the spring. Let’s take corn as an example. The accumulation of GDDs starts in early April. So if your planting was delayed until say mid-May, the crop can’t accumulate heat for the time it wasn’t in the ground, so much of the corn in the area is even further behind.  
Second, the extreme heat experienced over the last several weeks slows down both corn and sorghum development. When temperatures are excessive and the crop shuts down since it can’t transpire enough water to maintain turgor (adequate water pressure in the plant) to protect itself, it slows down development. In the case of sorghum, the plant will “idle” and that delays flowering. Naturally dryland crops are more severely affected than irrigated but even irrigated is delayed.  
This is one part of the equation for wheat farmers. Next week’s column will discuss wheat variety selection.