While 2014's wheat harvest has been left in the dust, producers are starting to make decisions that can affect next year's crop, for both themselves and their neighbors.
Being a good neighbor is a source of pride for many Kansans, but being neighborly extends beyond lending a cup of sugar every now and again. Wheat farmers should control their volunteer wheat in order to prevent severe problems that could cost both them, and their neighbors, a pretty penny.
Volunteer wheat carries several risks, such as wheat streak mosaic virus, wheat curl mites, hessian flies, Russian wheat aphids, Take-all, barley yellow dwarf virus and many more. Keep in mind that it is critical that all volunteer wheat within a 1/2 mile be completely dead for at least two weeks prior to planting in the fall, and give yourself enough time to have a second chance just in case the first attempt doesn't kill all of the plants.
Wheat streak mosaic virus is the most important risk of volunteer wheat, and it has the largest impact. Based on data from the 2013 crop, the state loss due to wheat streak mosaic would equal about 1.2% of the total harvest. While this may not seem like a large chunk, the 4.25 million bushel loss had an economic impact of $32.6 million.
Barley yellow dwarf can also be prevented by controlling volunteer wheat. Last year the state lost .25% of the harvest to barley yellow dwarf. This translates to 875,000 bushels and an economic impact of $8.6 million. While volunteer wheat isn't the root cause of these issues, it is the first line of defense against them. Destroying the "green bridge," the grasses that harbor disease-ridden insects, and waiting for two weeks ensures that the insects and the diseases they carry, both onto your fields and your neighbors', are no longer threats to your crops.
Untimely rains also plagued Kansas' last wheat harvest, which then resulted in a large influx of weeds that required herbicide applications. But, if farmers are intending to hold back some of the treated wheat for seed, it is advised that they have it tested for germination.
Most common herbicides used as pre-harvest aids require that the grain be below thirty-percent moisture before application, but if the moisture content is higher it can adversely affect seed germination for the next year's crop.
The only way to be sure that the newest crop's germination isn't inhibited is by having the seed tested at a professional laboratory. While farmers may be tempted to perform their own germination tests at home, they may not be an accurate depiction of the wheat's ability to germinate.
"Seed germination is relatively easy to conclude from a germination test. What is not quite so obvious is the potential damage done to seed though it appears to germinate," said Eric Fabrizius, Kansas Crop Improvement Association associate director. "Our trained analysts evaluate each seedling in a test to make sure it has all the essential structures to establish a plant in the field. The lack of roots or a damaged coleoptile resulting from a herbicide application may have a profound effect on that seed's ability to establish itself when planted."