By Dusty Sonnenberg, Matt Reese and Dale Minyo
It has been said that the greatest yield potential a crop has is when the seed is in the bag. Once a crop is planted, everything that occurs after that point impacts yield. For Doug and Jeremy Goyings of Paulding County, that means intensive management of the winter wheat crop: from a timely planting in the fall immediately after soybean harvest, to the split application of topdress nitrogen in March and April, to the use of fungicides and insecticides to protect the crop in the late spring and early summer. The Goyings had the top yield in Ohio’s 2021 Wheat Yield Contest with an entry of 138.4 bushels.
“Wheat can be a very profitable crop if you do the little extras and give it the necessary management attention,” said Doug Goyings. “We raise a full season wheat variety to try to maximize the yield. We aim to plant the second week of October to try to get a good stand established and avoid freeze concerns over the winter. We lightly incorporate our fertilizer in the fall before planting and really work to be sure we get the wheat planted at the correct depth to avoid winter heaving issues. We do two fungicide treatments. We do one early and then one at flowering to protect the yield. We put on insecticide too with the herbicide so we have a good consistent crop out there. We do two passes of nitrogen because we want more tillers. We also do controlled traffic patterns so we are only running the tracks in one consistent spot.”
With intensive nitrogen management of the wheat crop comes other considerations. Goyings Farms uses Palisade, which is a plant growth regulator, to help manage the risk of lodging from the nitrogen rates that are applied in the spring.
“You’re supposed to put on two shots on but it never works out for us to get the second shot on,” he said. “You can see where we miss some wheat with that in the corner and the wheat will go down.”
The 2021 wheat crop was also successful for the Goyings family due to cooperative weather.
“You really have to worry about heavy rains with wheat. Ponded areas really knock back your yield averages. We never really had any heavy flooding rains until halfway through wheat harvest,” Goyings said. “Mother Nature has to cooperate. You can’t have a rain when it gets ripe. Mother Nature has to help us if we are going to have a great wheat crop.”
It has become a family tradition to grow wheat and, more recently, to participate in the Ohio Wheat Yield Contest.
“We always raised wheat as a rotational crop because my grandpa always thought you had the best corn behind wheat. So we’ve been raising wheat for years,” Goyings said. “The Yield Contest was kind of a challenge. We started doing it in 2018 and I won the first year right off the bat. It was really difficult — I was the only Ohio entry. Every year since we have doubled the amount of entries in the state of Ohio. One reason they came out with this contest is to give farmers a new look at wheat if you give it some extra management.”
Selecting the best contest entry area is another part of the challenge.
“We know approximately where the good areas of the fields are from old data on the yield monitors. We do not usually say which field will be our contest field until late,” Goyings said. “This year the field we did the contest on is a newer farm for us. This farm was known as a frog pond because it did not have any tile. It was wetter than all get out. When we bought it we tiled it and leveled it and the wheat looked excellent on it all year. When Jeremy got in there with the combine we thought, ‘Wow this is spectacular.” It was shooting over 150 bushels in the strips he was running. We stopped cutting in that part of the field. We called some people from the Soil and Water Conservation District to come out because you have to have it certified by two people who are not involved the operation. They make sure your truck is clean and the combine is clean when you start in. That is where we took the plot and it was excellent.”
Wheat harvest for the farm is typically around July 4.
“Fourth of July we are always harvesting. I don’t know how many times I’ve crawled up on the grain bins and watched the fireworks at Ft. Wayne, Ind. We are only 12.5 miles from the state line and you can see Ft. Wayne’s fireworks from the grain bin really well,” Goyings said. “We have harvested earlier than that, but we were late harvesting this year. We have found we have better quality if we harvest wet and dry it at a low temperature. And a day or two can make a huge difference when planting double-crop soybeans. At times we will plant our double-crop soybeans in-between the straw windrows if the straw is not dry enough to bale after combining.”
With the rains that came through mid-harvest this year, baling straw was tricky.
“It took a month to get some of the wheat bales and the double-crop beans were a foot tall,” Goyings said. “It was a challenge.”
The far northwestern part of Ohio is not typically known for success with double-crop soybeans following wheat, but the Goyings have been able to make it work most years.
“Here where we are in northwest Ohio is not a double-crop area but we have had successful years. Last year was the first year we did not make money with double-crop beans. They got frosted too early and we got them out too late,” he said.
Maintaining the quality of wheat is vital as the harvested crop moves through the food chain in the milling process.
“Ohio wheat typically goes for cookies and crackers. If you had wheat that was ripe early, it goes to feed wheat,” Goyings said. “We are one of the few states that does not export the majority of our wheat. Our wheat stays in Ohio most of the time. When they run crackers through the mill if the protein is too low they won’t stay together correctly. When they try to box them they will crack. If the protein of the flour is raised by 1% they don’t get the cracking of the crackers. We are seeing mills starting to segregate based on protein levels.”
The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) recently announced the state winners for the 2021 Contest which includes 63 growers from 20 states. The Foundation’s National Wheat Yield Contest (NWYC) offers growers the opportunity to compete with farmers from across the United States and improve their production practices through new and innovative techniques. The state winners from around the country are listed at wheatfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021-State-Winners-Final-1.pdf.
“This year has presented many diverse challenges to farmers,” said David Cleavinger, National Wheat Foundation Board Chairman. “Drought has plagued most spring wheat growers and many winter wheat farmers faced the exact opposite fighting a wet harvest in multiple areas. These challenges have not only shown the persistence of growers in this industry, but also have highlighted the diversity of wheat which is shown in the range of yields of each region.”
The contest recognizes winners in two primary competition categories: winter wheat and spring wheat, and two subcategories: dryland and irrigated. Grain must be Grade 1 or 2 by Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) standards to be eligible for awards.
“NWF would like to thank each grower for enrolling in the NWYC and thank our sponsors for helping to make the Contest available to wheat growers in the United States. There were 387 entries for the contest this year, spring wheat entries were down a little, due to the drought,” Cleavinger said. “Yields and quality were excellent in this year’s entries and contestants tell us they are continuing to learn how to increase yields and quality on their farms.”
The sponsors for the 2021 National Yield Contest are AgriMaxx, Ardent Mills, BASF, Croplan/Winfield, Elevate Ag, Grain Craft, GrainSense, John Deere, Miller Milling, Michigan Wheat, Nutrien, Ohio Corn and Wheat, and WestBred.
For more details on the winning entries and to review the official rules and entry details for the 2022 contest, visit yieldcontest.wheatfoundation.org.