Wheat prices are down, and wheat acreage in Georgia is dropping.
To boost the state’s wheat industry and help producers get more out of their crop, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension small-grains specialist Reagan Noland is researching a dual-use system that would enable growers to use their wheat crop for grain and forage production.
The dual-use system is common in Texas and Oklahoma and allows growers to use their wheat crop as a winter forage for grazing and for a grain harvest. The UGA study compares different seeding rates of winter wheat and measures forage yield and subsequent grain yield. Seeding rate guidelines for grain and forage production are available, but not for the dual-use system.
“Supplemental forages are often needed in the winter. This wheat management approach enables farmers to provide their cattle with good, quality forage,” Noland said. “Economically, it’s a challenge to grow wheat right now. Hopefully, this method can help farmers gain the most out of their crop.”
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According to the 2017-18 Extension Wheat Production Guide, Georgia farmers planted 160,000 acres in the 2016-2017 season, which marked the third year the state’s wheat acreage declined. Growers only harvested 70,000 acres, or 43 percent of the planted area, due to disease pressure and poor environmental conditions. The average yield was only 47 bushels per acre.
An underwhelming 2016 financial market didn’t help farmers. In the production guide, prices were recorded as low as $4.05 a bushel. This marked the fifth year prices have declined. The price per bushel was $4.60 in 2015 and $5.35 in 2014.
Adam Rabinowitz, UGA Extension economist, said prices are improving for the 2017 crop and will be closer to 2015 prices, mainly due to drought conditions in the Southern Plains.
This year’s cold weather has been a boon for Georgia’s wheat producers. In recent years, poor vernalization, or flowering, has been one of Georgia wheat producers’ biggest problems. Wheat needs a period of cold temperatures for optimum reproductive growth and grain production in the spring.
The past two winters have been extremely mild, and temperatures rarely dropped below freezing. That has not been the case this year.
“With the extensive cold periods we experienced this winter, I am confident that the crop has had adequate vernalization, which sets us up for good yield potential this spring,” Noland said.
Farmers should be prepared to manage diseases such as Fusarium head blight (FHB), or head scab, this spring, he said. Head scab causes yield loss, low test weights, low seed germination and mycotoxins that contaminate grain.