June 24, 2009

This year's wheat harvest got off to a slow start due to wet conditions over the past several weeks.  However, dry weather June 20 and June 21 gave many producers an opportunity to begin harvesting. With continued dry conditions forecasted for this week, the wheat harvest should get back on track.

"We had 7 percent of the crop harvested at the beginning of last week, but that was lower than our five-year average of 15 percent. But with the forecasted hot, dry weather, we should be catching up," said Jim Herbek, extension grain crops specialist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Since the beginning of the year, rainfall totals are 2.2 inches above normal in western Kentucky, where the majority of wheat is grown, and 3.5 inches above normal for the entire state.

"It's been an exceptionally wet May and June. The state has had above normal rainfall for the past seven or eight weeks," said Keys Arnold, UK staff meteorologist.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Kentucky Weekly Crop and Weather Report, 27 percent of the state's wheat was harvested as of June 21. This is below last year's average of 33 percent and the five-year average of 41 percent.

Fortunately for western Kentucky producers, dry, sunny conditions should continue through the rest of the week. However, it will be hot with temperatures in the 90s most days, Arnold said.

Producers had one of the best wheat harvests on record in 2008, but this year's harvest is not expected to be as promising.

Herbek said early reports have yields all over the place, and that likely is due to the presence of the disease Fusarium head blight or "head scab" in some fields. Much of the state's crop was highly susceptible to the disease during the last part of April and first part of May. Specialists will have a better idea of the extent of the disease's damage to the state's crop in the next few weeks.  

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