Wheat watchers report – May 10, 2021

Fertilizer and herbicide applications have been on schedule in most areas.

Map of Michigan with some counties highlighted.
The counties in green represent the counties covered in this report.

For several years before his retirement from full-time wheat support, Michigan State University Extension’s Martin Nagelkirk has worked with a "wheat watchers" group to gather perspectives from wheat growers, extension educators and agribusiness representatives from across Michigan about wheat growth, development and the progress they see in the field. Wheat watchers comments are now being collected by Nagelkirk along with Ricardo Costa and Dennis Pennington and shared on the MSU Extension Wheat website.

Below we share what wheat watchers across the state saw in their wheat fields between May 5-10, 2021.

Gratiot County (Carson City) – Ben Wilson (May 10)

Wheat crop is at Feekes 8 and rated an 8 (1-10 scale). Nitrogen application is mostly wrapped up. Folks are finishing herbicide applications. There is little disease activity, and some preventative fungicide applications are going on. Winter annuals ramped up early and are out of range for control at this stage. We are just starting to see a flush of annuals. Disease progression is slow and coming to a halt with recent cold weather. Insect activity has been low so far. Late frosts could affect head emergence and condition; dry and cold weather is good for root systems, but the wheat crop is not responding as rapidly to fertility applications.

Bay County (Auburn) – Chris Schmidt (May 9)

Wheat crop is rated an 8, and ranging from Feekes 6- 8. Herbicide, first fungicide, and second dose of 28 have already been completed in the area of the Saginaw Valley. Recent rainfall of 0.4 inches during the week of May 2 has been much appreciated and needed. Cool weather and either northwest or northeast breezes off the Saginaw Bay have tempered the rapid growth of the wheat crop.

Hillsdale County (Camden) – Denny Person (May 8)

Wheat crop is at Feekes 8 and rated an 8. Herbicide and fertilizer applications have been completed in the area.

Monroe, Lenawee and Washtenaw counties – Ricardo Costa (May 8)

Wheat crop is at Feekes 8 stage in these counties, and overall the crop is looking very good at this point, so that I would rate them a 9. Herbicide and fertilizer applications have been finalized in most of the fields I visited. In the picture below, the arrow is pointing out to the flag leaf showing up.

Red arrow pointing to flag leaf.
Wheat is at growth stage 8. Photo by Ricardo Costa, MSU Extension.

Grand Traverse County (Grawn) - Brent Wagner (May 8)

Wheat crop is rated as an 8, and the crop is at Feekes 4 stage on average. The first application of nitrogen is done. According to the forecast, we had cold temperatures, cloudy days, freeze or frost warning for the last two nights plus the next three to four days.

Clinton County (St. Johns) -Monica Jean (May 6)

Wheat is between Feekes 6-7 and growers are spraying now for weeds. The crop looks good at this point. No issues related to insects so far. The picture below shows a wheat tiller.

Wheat tiller.
Wheat tiller. Photo by Monica Jean, MSU Extension.

Newaygo County (Newaygo) - Mitchell Murray (May 6)

The crop is at Feekes 6 stage and rated a 9. Quite a bit of herbicide and fungicide has been applied recently, along with a touch of foliar added in as well. Nothing as of concern right now related to weeds, insects and diseases. From the elevator perspective, spraying for head scab is necessary for both red and white wheat. DON affects both colors, and the discounts can add up fast on both colors as well. From previous wheat meetings, the correct spray at the right time drops DON by half.

Overall, no weather concerns as of yet. Not too much moisture, which is allowing growers to get fields fit and planted at a good rate compared to other years. Wheat could use a little shot of water, but the couple tenths we have gotten recently have helped keep it going. The picture below is of the main tiller dug up Thursday, May 6.

Main wheat tiller dug up.
Main wheat tiller dug up. Photo by Mitchell Murray.

Sanilac County (Applegate) - Martin Nagelkirk (May 6)

Mostly wheat is rated as 8 or 9. Almost all is jointed, but the range is growth stages 5 to 7. Fieldwork continues. Corn and soybean planting has had a good start due to unusually dry conditions. No significant concerns related to insects, weeds and diseases. However, we are seeing plenty of herbicide injury due presumably to cold temperatures around the time of application. There is some powdery mildew and Septoria leaf spot on susceptible varieties. Because of our heavier soils, wheat is not likely suffering from a lack of moisture except for some coarse-textured soils.

Huron County (Elkton) - Jeffery Krohn (May 6)

Wheat crop is rated as 8, and Feekes stages are ranging from 5 to 6. Most wheat has all of its nitrogen, pesticides and growth regulators applied. Powdery mildew is showing up in some fields, and the many cold, frosty nights have slowed the progression of the wheat.

Sanilac County (Deckerville) - Reggie VanSickle (May 6)

Wheat crop is rated as 9 and is at Feekes 6 growth stage. Second application of nitrogen is done and most pesticides are on. Some lower leaf disease is being found in the area. The previous cold snap did little damage locally, but we are waiting to see the 30-degree lows forecast for the next three days.

St. Joseph County (Centreville) - Eric Anderson (May 5)

The crop is rated as 8 on average. Wheat is at Feekes 7.

Tuscola County (Cass City) - Mike Milligan (May 5)

Wheat is at Feekes 5 growth stage and crop as rated as 9. Fertilizer and herbicide applications are completed. We will need more rain in the near future to finish the crop out.

Monroe County (Ida) - Mark Metz (May 5)

Crop is rated as 10. Wheat in the area is at Feekes 5 stage. Fertilizer (two applications), herbicide and fungicide are all done. We received some nice rains for the wheat this week, no drown out at all. Some freezing weather, but we don't think it caused damage. Some leaf burn due to weather and herbicide/28% application, but we don't expect it to have a long-term effect.

Ingham County (Mason) – Dennis Pennington (May 5)

Crop is rated a 9 and ranging from Feekes 7-8 stages. Herbicide application has been a real challenge trying to find times when the overnight temperatures are not too cold, and it is not too windy to spray. Second split of nitrogen has been applied. Wheat is looking good. In some fields, weed control is poor due to application during cold temperatures and poor uptake of herbicides. Warmer weather may help. No insect pressure noticed so far. Some powdery mildew and Septoria can be found. Also, a little bit of barley yellow dwarf and wheat streak mosaic virus (need to confirm wsmv).

There seems to be a dichotomy in wheat progress. Late planted wheat is only Feekes 6 and isn't moving through the growth stages as quickly as early planted wheat. Early planted wheat, despite the colder temperatures, are still moving through the growth stages. We have some ultra early varieties in the breeding program that had the collar of the flag leaf visible on May 4. When the weather warms up, we will be at flag leaf very quickly. In the picture below, notice the canopy architecture difference between the two research plots. The front variety is more upright; the back variety is more prostrate.

Difference in canopy architecture between two research plots.
Difference in canopy architecture between two research plots. Photo by Dennis Pennington, MSU Extension.

If you have questions or want to become an official wheat watcher reporter, please contact Ricardo Costa at costasil@msu.edu.

Did you find this article useful?