On-time planting and timely rains give central North Dakota wheat 'best potentials we've ever seen'

Jamie Schurhamer, speaking on the Agweek Cereals Crop Tour on July 21, said there were early concerns that 2022 could shape up to be like 2021. But widespread snow in the area eased some concerns, and now cereals crops in the area have high potential for solid yields.

Green heads of spring wheat are in focus and out of focus.
On-time planting and timely rains have created high potential for solid yields for spring wheat crops in central North Dakota. Photo taken July 21, 2022, in Wilton, North Dakota.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek
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WILTON, N.D. — It wouldn't have taken much for 2022 spring wheat in central North Dakota to beat the 2021 crop.

"Well, last year's crop — there wasn't one, right?" said Jamie Schurhamer, agronomy manager at Hefty Seeds in Wilton, said. Most of the wheat and corn in the area was hayed rather than combined as drought stress limited growth and yield.

Schurhamer, speaking on the Agweek Cereals Crop Tour on July 21, said there were early concerns that 2022 could shape up to be like 2021. But widespread snow in the area eased some concerns.

Then, farmers in central North Dakota generally got their wheat planted on time rather than late as was the case in many parts of the region. Timely rains followed and Schurhamer thinks the crops have "probably the best potentials we've ever seen."

The crops, he said, are even and developing right on time.


A wide view of a green field of spring wheat.
While wet conditions have created some disease pressures, the spring wheat crop at Hefty Seeds in Wilton, North Dakota, has high potential, agronomy manager Jamie Schurhamer says. Photo taken July 21, 2022.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek

"They just look really good," he said.

That doesn't mean there aren't potential problems. Schurhamer pointed out spots of foliar diseases — something that is not uncommon with wet years. Foliar diseases can limit yield because there is less green available on the leaves for photosynthesis, he explained.

The good news, he said, is most of the farmers he and his team at Hefty works with are pretty progressive in managing their crops. They have applied fungicide with herbicide, as well as flag leaf applications and head scab applications, which have knocked down much of the disease. Schurhamer said there were some issues with product availability for head scab applications because of supply chain issues and because there was so much wheat that needed treating, but most were able to obtain what they needed.

For farmers who planted late and haven't applied fungicide, Schurhamer urged them to check into options. In parts of his trials, areas of fields that didn't get sprayed, including corners and odd spots, were showing significantly higher head scab problems, as much as one in 10 heads.

A man in a green shirt reaches down into a field of green spring wheat.
Jamie Schurhamer, agronomy manager at Hefty Seeds in Wilton, North Dakota, said farmers have far better attitudes in 2022 than during the devastating 2021 drought. Photo taken July 21, 2022.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek

Hefty has three WestBred varieties and an AgriPro variety of wheat this year, and he said all four look strong. There are some varietal differences in disease pressure, but Schurhamer said he couldn't anticipate how any of them would yield out "until the combine hits." He expects harvest will be in mid to late August.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service crop progress and condition report for conditions ending July 24, 2022, cereals crops in North Dakota were in good condition but behind schedule in terms of crop development. Spring wheat was rated 78% good to excellent, durum 87%, winter wheat 82%, oats 84% and barley 69%. But all of those crops were rated as behind or well behind last year and the average on things like heading, coloring and maturity. Winter wheat, the only cereals crop in North Dakota for which the crop progress report listed harvest progress, was 6% harvested, compared to 12% last year and 7% on average.

The crop potential certainly has impacted farmers' moods, Schurhamer noted.

"What I notice mostly is just attitudes," he said. "I still think farmers were profitable last year, but the attitude is so much better this year because of the potentials we're having."


Hefty will hold a field day Sept. 7 in Wilton, with Brian Hefty speaking.

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