2014 Wheat Tour – Central Kansas

Hi I’m Jim Shroyer, Extension Specialist at Kansas State University and I’m Erick DeWolf, Extension Plant Pathologist for Kansas State University. Today we’re in McPherson County on the County Wheat Plot Tour. Last week we were further south and a little bit southwest and looking at the wheat in that area of the state. And we’ve obviously moved a little further north into central Kansas. And one of the big issues in central Kansas this year has been winter damage, short wheat, drought stressed wheat and now we’re seeing a lot of white heads in this part of the state. And that can be caused by environmental conditions, insects. (Erick) Right. (Jim) And one of the environmental conditions is what you have in your hand right there, is hail damage. (Erick) That’s right. So we are seeing a lot of white heads. If you remember around a week ago, Mother’s Day weekend, there was some pretty severe storms that had moved through McPherson County and delivered a fair bit of hail here not far from Mound Ridge. So what we’re seeing now is some wheat plants that are showing a lot of white heads, as this particular one is showing and also a lot of leaf tattering, stem damage that was done directly to these plants. So part of the characteristic symptoms would be, that we might be able to separate it from insect damages, we can go out and tug on those heads and if it was insect damage, particularly wheat stem maggot, we might be able to pull that white head completely out of the stem and observe at the base of the stem an area that had been chewed by the insect. But this hail-damaged wheat does not do that. It is still pretty well rooted or attached to that stem. Also it will have that characteristic leaf tattering and also some direct hits on the stem from hailstones and so. (Jim) I can see the stem damage, and broken stem. This looks like Zorro almost. (Jim) The stem’s been damaged, hit a couple times there. (Erick) Yeah, pretty sad. (Jim) The other would be freeze damage and we saw quite a bit of it last week, single plants here and there and to certain areas further down along the border, quite a bit of freeze damage along with the drought stress. But freeze damage can be mistaken for hail damage a lot of times. A lot of times the head, parts of the head, will be white and the bottom part will be green. And the part that was just sticking out of the boot stage, out of the flag leaf here when it froze will be damaged. But back in 1981, the Mother’s Day freeze back in 1981, whole heads were damaged, whole fields were wiped out, but in this particular case we’ve got some pretty serious hail damage in this Moundridge area. (Erick) I think so. I guess another factor that was playing into this whole area as well was just early season drought, it seemed like as well and maybe even preceding that was just problems with winter survival. (Jim) That’s right. We had a lot of… Well, last year in this area we had some pretty good rains in July and August and then it kind of turned off hot and dry, or dry and people worked the ground maybe one extra time. They disk, if they disk the ground, that ended up being a little fluffy and if there was some residue there, it just never packed down and I know some farmers that said if they field cultivated and avoided the disk, it worked a heck of a lot better. And they didn’t nearly as much winter damage. But what happens is that fluffy ground in the fall, the plants never got well established and then when that cold temperatures came in well, November, December and then a real bad one in January that cold air was able to penetrate right down into that soil and do extensive winter damage and you don’t have to go very far here and you find some extensive winter damage. (Erick) Yeah, that’s right. I think there’s been thin stands and then the following drought… the following months continued to put pressure on the plants, and those remaining plants really had a hard time stewing out or tillering out and filling in any gaps that were left by the winter kill plants. (Jim) Thank you.

(Jim) I am Jim Shroyer, Extension Wheat Specialist at Kansas State University and I’m Erick DeWolf Extension Plant Pathologist for Kansas State University. You know Jim and I have been doing a lot of Wheat Plot Tours throughout the south central region and now today in McPherson County here in central Kansas. And as we were talking about a lot of varieties, one of the things we often highlight as part of our variety talks is resistance or tolerance to acid soils, Jim. (Jim) Right. (Erick) What are some of the key things that a grower might consider when looking at varieties, particularly related to acid soil? (Jim) Well, the one thing is knowing what the soil pH is. And really at about 5.2 is when I start getting worried. Some people say 5.4, 5.5 obviously they have to take a soil test. But at 5.2 aluminum… to 5.0, aluminum becomes available in a soil solution. And so it’s not really the low pH that hurts the wheat plant, it’s the aluminum that is now in the soil solution. And it looks like someone took a Bic lighter to the roots, and it just… that aluminum then it gets 18 to 20 and above parts per million in that soil solution, that’s high enough that it can cause some serious damage. And like I said, it looks like somebody took a Bic lighter to the root tips and burned them. So there’s several ways, to answer your question, there’s several ways to handle this and one, one of the easiest is variety selection. And one variety that you know, that’s been around a few years that people really got excited about because it replaced Overley is the variety Fuller. But Fuller was very susceptible to low pH soil, so that really limited its production down to central and south central part of the state. But a variety like Everest is very tolerant to low Ph soil. And there are others as well. But those are examples of one susceptible and one very resistant. The other thing that people can do is, not only with a resistant variety, but they can also put down a starter fertilizer, phosphorus and band it with the seed because that ties up the aluminum and like I said a second ago, it’s not the pH that really bothers the plant so much, it’s the aluminum, so if the phosphorus is binding with the aluminum, that takes it out of the soil solution and the roots aren’t taking it up. So it’s not there for them to take it up. And really the only real one that is a long term solution is liming the soils. So take a soil test solution through K-State or any other reputable soil testing laboratory and find out what the Ph is and how much lime is required. Some may take only a ton of lime, some 2 or 3 or 4. A lot of times if it calls for 3 or 4 tons of lime, that’s pretty pricey. (Erick) Right. (Jim) Depends on how close the nearest lime pit or where the source is. So it can be pretty pricey. So really you are going to get the biggest bang for that first half. (Erick) OK. (Jim) So if you can’t put off on the full amount, you can put on half and then maybe in four or five years, do it again. But again, the soil test is pretty important to find out what that actual Ph is. And how much lime you are going to have to put on. (Erick) So is incorporating that lime, if you did go ahead and invest in that lime application is there any certain procedures you would have to do to make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck there? (Jim) Well, the biggest bang for the buck is incorporating it, like you were suggesting. In the old days they would plow it down and then that would be plowed in and that would be just fine. But anymore disk it in or field cultivate it. But we have a lot of people that are no till producers. (Erick) Right. (Jim) And they don’t want to touch that soil. That’s going to cause a little more problems in that it’s got to be in contact with the soil, and it doesn’t move very much within the soil. So we need rain in this situation, in a no till situation, we basically need rain to move that lime into the soil. And we haven’t had much rain lately as attested by how the wheat’s been looking in the central part of the state. So, but you can lime it and not incorporate it, but it’s going to take a long time to neutralize that, otherwise I would say incorporate it somehow. (Erick) OK.


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