June 21, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

Combines are making their first trips through the fields for 2006 reaping the state’s golden winter wheat crop. More than 2.1 million bushels of the grain are expected to be harvested in the coming weeks. 

This year’s crop has been an overachiever from the beginning, thanks to timely planting and good growing conditions that allowed it to run a week to 10 days ahead of normal in development. That has led into an early harvest that is turning out a good to excellent crop, said James Herbek, Extension grain crops specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. 

Yield is projected to be 68 bushels per acre, equal to the record high yield produced last year, according the latest crop estimates from the Kentucky Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Herbek said he’s seen nothing to dispute this estimate and believes the crop could be every bit as good as last year’s.

“Based on reports of the crop, I sort of track it every week, it’s been reported at least 75 percent good to excellent condition and it has pretty well stayed there,” he said. “It’s going to be a good yielding crop and should have a good test weight. The grain filling period in May was cool and that extends the filling period.”

Herbek said he was somewhat concerned that diseases might develop with the rainy conditions that occurred during the later stages of the growing season. But that doesn’t appear to have occurred.

Disease has not been a major problem in most of the state’s wheat crop this year, said Don Hershman, UK plant pathologist.

“By and large, it seems we have escaped a disease issue,” he said. “There have been some fields that have had significant fusarium head blight, and there may be a vomitoxin issue in those fields. But most fields have light to moderate head blight. It’s probably a little worse than last year but much better than the previous year, which was extensive. In terms of other diseases, I think because it was relatively dry during the grain filling period, we never really had an outbreak.”

Winter wheat is a much smaller crop in Kentucky than corn or soybeans but plays an important role both economically and in crop rotation for many farmers. About 310,000 acres of wheat will be harvested in the coming weeks. About 45 percent of the crop has been harvested to date well ahead of the five-year average of 27 percent. With cash wheat prices around $3 per bushel, this year’s crop could mean $6.3 million to the state’s economy. Some farmers may receive even more through various marketing and contracting options.



James Herbek, 270-365-7541, ext. 205, Don Hershman, 270-365-7541, ext. 215