Mike Vanhorn, J & M Manufacturing, left, delivered Ohio Wheat Yield Contest winner Kent Edwards of Maple View Farms, middle, a new seed tender, along with Dave Ziegler, right, with Redline Equipment in Bellvue.

Wheat yield winner shares tips

By Matt Reese

The 2023 wheat crop was a pleasant surprise for many farmers around Ohio who saw some of the best yields ever. Statewide, winter wheat in Ohio averaged 90 bushels per acre in 2023 up 11 bushels from the previous year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service Great Lakes Region.

Kent Edwards of Erie County was particularly pleased with his169.4 bushel per acre yield entry for the Ohio and National Wheat Yield Contest. His yield was the highest in the Ohio contest and finished third in the national Dryland Winter Wheat category.

Kent Edwards (fifth from left) and Hanna Edwards (seventh from left) were joined by Pioneer Seed representatives and members of the Ohio Small Grains Check-off during the awards reception at the 2024 Commodity Classic and National Wheat Yield Contest Awards reception. Also pictured are: Brian Sutorius, Pioneer; Sam Boyce, Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program (OSGMP); Ray Van Horn, OSGMPDerek Hetrick, OSGMP; Eric Richer, OSGMP; Nick Wolford, OSGMP; Owen Niece, OSGMP; and Gary Wilson, OSGMP.

“That was a pleasant surprise with the way our spring went. We for sure did not expect it to go that well,” Edwards said. “We had around 20 days or so of no rain last spring so I almost didn’t spray the extra stuff with the airplane because I didn’t think the crop was going to be that good. I was thinking we had 80-90-bushel wheat. My dad told me that we would be lucky to have 50-bushel wheat, so he was pleasantly surprised too.”

Edwards hits the soybean stubble with a light pass with a high-speed disc and then plants Pioneer wheat at a population of 1.6 to 1.7 million seeds per acre with a drill in 10-inch rows. 

“We didn’t have any drowned-out spots or anything like that heading into last year. It wasn’t too wet the previous fall. We had a nice dry period and it stayed warmer longer, which helped the wheat get some growth,” he said. “We usually do our main nitrogen application earlier than most people around here. I like to get it before it starts to green up so I don’t ding it as bad. Sometimes I’m just afraid that I am not going to get it on in time, so I usually put it on early so I don’t have to fly it on by airplane. Then I sprayed my second pass with nitrogen and other foliars from Nutrien and AgXplore and then fungicide came with an airplane.”

Edwards tried Palisade growth regulator on some of his better yielding wheat last year and was pleased with the results.

“I think if you’re going to push the nitrogen, Palisade would help out. That shortens and stunts your wheat. You’ve got to be careful with what ground you use it on. I only used it on more highly productive ground,” Edwards said. “We use more nitrogen, so we tried Palisade so it doesn’t fall down. It just kind of it makes a thicker stalk, but also shortens the wheat a little bit. It ended up being really good wheat that stood up. I’ve never seen 180-bushel wheat that was standing before.”

The unusual spring conditions last year also certainly played a role in the yields.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate with having some mild winters. That kind of worries me in the springtime because it is coming out of dormancy earlier and if we would have a hard freeze at the end of March early April, that’s going to hurt our wheat crop, but we haven’t had that issue the last couple of years,” Edwards said. “I think it also had something to do with the smoke from Canada last year. I was worried about sunlight and everything, especially for corn and bean crop, but maybe it helped.”

Edwards plants a longer season wheat and, when combined with the additional inputs and fungicides, it usually means a later harvest.

“With the later maturity, and we’re putting double fungicide on, that usually puts us about a week behind everyone else around us with wheat harvest,” he said. “Our windows to harvest seem to keep getting smaller and when we can go, we’ve just got to go. We started the week after the Fourth of July and we had some rains in there that stalled us, but I think it only took us a little over a week to get it.”

The straw from the majority of the 500 wheat acres on the farm then gets baled.

“We do bale maybe 300 to 400 acres of straw. If it’s ground that that I need to keep the nutrients there, I don’t want to rob it so I usually keep the straw in the field and chop it,” he said. “We also haul out of the city of Norwalk and haul byproduct from Bunge’s main plant there. We haul those two things on our wheat fields as well, so if we’re going to be taking straw, those fields are usually my fields that I’ll be putting sludge on.”

Edwards has enjoyed participating in the Wheat Yield Contest, especially when his wheat comes out on top. As the overall Ohio winner Edwards received a 1-year free lease on a seed tender from J & M Manufacturing. The runner up was Jim Dauch from Huron County with 162.21 bushel per acre wheat. Dauch received free fungicide from BASF.  

The Wheat Yield Contest is a good reason to try different inputs on some acres to push productivity, Edwards said. His 2024 wheat crop also looks promising but has a few more holes in the stand from wet weather last fall.

“We don’t irrigate or anything but the genetics of the wheat are getting better, that’s for sure. We have had good luck with Pioneer wheat. We’re putting more micros, and some foliars along with fungicide on it but we’re trying to also watch our bottom dollar because you don’t want to be throwing good money after bad,” he said. “Everybody thinks that there are ways to do better so I think that you can go outside your comfort zone when you’re trying different things and try to push that yield. If there are better ways out there to grow higher yields, I think that’s kind of a plus to being in the contest as well to see how they do on your farm.”

The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) is accepting entries for the 2024 Wheat Yield Contest. This year 26 national winners will be recognized. The entry deadline for winter wheat is May 15 and the entry fee in $100. Visit www.wheatcontest.org for more.

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