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Winter Wheat in Good Shape Headed Into Homestretch

Cool, damp weather is great for maximum kernel size development.

High Plains crop producers are beginning to get frustrated at the recent rain showers that have slowed planting progress the last few weeks, but Jim Shroyer points out that cool, damp weather conditions are great for the winter wheat crop.

Winter wheat is a cool-season grass and as such, thrives in these kinds of conditions, which are a stark contrast to what the crop went through during a warm, dry fall, winter, and early spring.

"Given a choice, wheat will take cool weather rather than more moisture," says Shroyer, a retired wheat specialist at Kansas State University.

In Texas, Oklahoma, and much of Kansas, the number of kernels per head has already been determined. Rather than adding grains per head, these conditions promote maximum kernel size.

"The kernels fill to their maximum potential, rather than racing to the end in hot, dry conditions like typically occurs in normal years," Shroyer says. "You're not mysteriously adding more kernels per row, but those that are there are filling out so that you keep them in the combine grain tank, rather than losing them out the back end."

WIth this weather, the crop's maturity has slowed. Harvest has begun in Texas and is moving slowly northward. It should begin in Oklahoma in a week or two. Kernel formation is just occurring in northwest Oklahoma, while the crop is in various stages of maturity in Kansas and southern Nebraska.

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