Nebraska winter wheat sees advance emergence, some rust due to higher-than-average temperatures |

Nebraska winter wheat sees advance emergence, some rust due to higher-than-average temperatures

Jerry Cooksey holds onto one of the good examples of a wheat head in his field outside Roggen. Disease, excessive rain, and colder temperatures hurt some crops across Colorado and ultimately varied crop yields.
Joshua Polson/ | The Greeley Tribune

In a fall that hasn’t seen a lot of moisture or cool temperatures, there are some unknown factors for wheat producers in Nebraska at this point.

The dry fall with barely a half-inch of moisture in most of the state didn’t create a planting problem, but if the temperatures don’t cool sooner — especially with little snow — the quality of the wheat might decrease come spring.

In the Nebraska panhandle, the emerging wheat has looked healthy, according to Rick Larson, who serves on the Nebraska Wheat Board and farms between Scottsbluff and Sidney. However, the months ahead will really determine whether that wheat will stay good.

“It’s been an abnormally warm fall. The only problem with that is it will take more moisture early,” Larson said.

The issue will come if there isn’t enough moisture relief for the wheat before the temperatures finally drop. The more the wheat grows, the more moisture is needed. During winter months the cold weather slows the growing process, and snow is used to cover the crop. This keeps the growing process slow, while also proving moisture.

The colder temperatures lacking this fall are also important when it comes to slowing the start and spread of rust. Larry Flohr, who farms in Deuel, Neb., said he’s already seeing cases of rust in wheat crops in his region of the state. This is highly unusual, as cases won’t normally be seen until the spring.

This can pose a problem later in the season, and could mean the rust will move west. Normally the path of rust is first seen east, and through wind travels further west as the growing season and temperatures advance. The best indicator of when Colorado wheat growers will see rust is when Nebraska starts to report it.

Without even knowing how the temperature and rust will affect yields during harvest, many wheat farmers are already looking at ways to cut down production costs, including with resources for this year’s crop as the price of wheat is still too low for farmers to make a profit.

“Everybody is cutting back on spending money,” Flohr said.

The past few years have been good for production, with high yields across the board, but with farmers across the country and internationally having the same successful growth, the prices are continuing to stay low. There are farmers who still haven’t sold some of their crop from this past harvest because they have been waiting for the market to rebound. The problem is, it hasn’t.

In Nebraska, the wheat bid across the state for Dec. 2 ranged from 2.51-2.89 per bushel, which is still well below where farmers need to just break even. The low prices, even with high yields, left some farmers saving money how and when they can. Sine have cut back on use of machinery or cut back on the amount of fertilizer used this fall.

But it’s not just the quality of the current crop that will bring farmers to look at if they will continue to cut back on production costs, but also the international market. Half of the state’s wheat is for foreign export, so if another part of the world is seeing high crop yields, and can export for cheaper than Nebraska producers, the market opportunity narrows for producers, thus contributing to the overabundance with low prices for American wheat producers.

“We haven’t been able to export as we should be,” Larson said. ❖

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