Wisconsin's farmers increased their seeding of alfalfa but cut back on their planting of winter wheat during 2013, according to a report issued early this week by the state's field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Prompted in large part by significant winterkill heading into the 2013 crop year, Wisconsin farmers planted 70,000 more acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures than they did a year earlier, putting the 2013 total of those seedings at 460,000 acres. This corresponded with the national trend of an increase of five percent from 2012 for a total of 2.52 million acres seeded in 2013.
The report indicated that 290,000 acres of winter wheat were planted in Wisconsin during the autumn of 2013 for the 2014 crop year. This is a decrease of 25,000 from the number of winter wheat acres planted a year earlier — in line with a national drop of three percent in winter wheat acres for a total of 41.9 million.
At the University of Wisconsin Extension Service's agronomy update meetings in early January, wheat production specialist Shawn Conley pointed out that the weather conditions that led to winterkill of alfalfa also proved to be a good test of the winterhardiness traits of winter wheat varieties, especially at the trial plot on Kolbe Seed Farms near Chilton.
Although the wheat varieties in that plot averaged a yield of 85 bushels per acre, the range was from 105 to 26 bushels per acre, Conley reported. The lowest yielding variety was a public one from Virginia, which was among several that fell victim to significant winterkill, he noted.
Conley also announced that the Extension Service's winter wheat trials are now being conducted at two new locations — both in Fond du Lac County. They are at the long-standing corn and soybean plot site on Montsma Farms near Lamartine west of Fond du Lac and on Bertram Farms at rural Malone northeast of Fond du Lac.
About 25,000 acres of winter wheat are grown per year in that area compared to about 7,000 in the vicinity of a former plot near Lancaster, Conley pointed out.
In addition to concerns about winter survival, winter wheat growers need to be aware of the possibility of fusarium head blight that leads to empty kernel heads or poorly developed kernels, Conley stated. He mentioned fungicide treatments with Headline at flag leaf or with Prosaro at early heading as the best known choices for controlling what's also commonly referred to as "head scab."