Ray Van Horn, in Morrow County, is the current vice chair of the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program and is also active in the National Association of Wheat Growers.

Early wheat harvest producing strong yields, some lodging

By Matt Reese

An early harvest, solid yields and consistent quality were a common theme for the 2024 Ohio soft red winter wheat crop.

As of July 1, nearly half of Ohio’s wheat crop had been harvested at 49% compared to the 14% 5-year average, according to Ben Torrance, State Statistician, USDA NASS, Ohio Field Office. Wheat crop condition was rated 72% good to excellent.

Much needed rains interrupted wheat harvest, particularly in northern Ohio, and specifically on the farm of Ray Van Horn, in Morrow County. Van Horn is the current vice chair of the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program and is also active in the National Association of Wheat Growers. He was, overall, pleased with his 2024 wheat crop after a challenging 2024, but he did have some fields with significant lodging problems.

“It has been a rough year here in Morrow County. We’ve been trying to go for some high yielding wheat, but the storms and Mother Nature had a different idea. We’re currently in a field that is yielding really well but it is down bad. There are places in the field that we can only cut one way,” Van Horn said on June 28. “I’d say we’re a good 10 days ahead of schedule and I would say yield is probably 5% higher than the county average, generally. So far quality is good, test weight is hanging in there. The other day before we got rained out, the moisture was down to around 11.6%. Today it’s about 15% to 19% moisture so we’re just trying to go after it because we’ve got another rain coming in tonight and don’t want any more to go down on us.”

Van Horn’s wheat crop got a strong start last fall and through the winter.

Van Horn had a high yielding, but badly lodged field of wheat that slowed the early harvest progress.

“It was off to a beautiful start. The winter and spring were good for it, but I would say about 3 weeks ago is when the wheat went down. A lot of that is because the growing conditions were really good for wheat, but it’s just one of those things that happens,” he said. “A lot of it is weather related too, but when you go after some of those high yields with wheat, you can put a growth regulator on it called Palisade at topdress time. I didn’t do it this year and that was a big mistake on this farm. Now, other farms I’ve done it on, and it’s not an issue.

“We put fungicide on every acre of wheat and it definitely helps for quality. Along with that we split apply nitrogen and the growing conditions were so good this spring for the wheat. I think that’s why it got so big on us and started to go down and then the storms we had I think did more damage than anything.”

Vomitoxin did not seem to be a widespread issue in Ohio this year, but is always a potential concern, even when applying fungicide. It is a regular source of discussion in Van Horn’s roles as a wheat industry leader in Ohio and nationally.

“Vomitoxin is always a huge issue and that’s where a lot of the checkoff dollars are going to research right now. Vomitoxin has not been a big issue yet this season, but you know the later the season goes it could get worse, we don’t know. Mother Nature plays a big role in that,” he said. “I’m also on the U.S. Wheat Board — it’s an export market development program. I was fortunate enough to host a trade team last fall with with COFCO from China and they were a very large purchaser of soft red wheat here in Ohio.”

With regard to his challenging field of wheat, the calendar set the stage nicely for double-crop soybeans. Van Horn was planning to chop the straw, run a vertical tillage tool and follow close behind with the soybean planter. Statewide, the early wheat harvest opened up nice opportunities for double-crop soybeans or an early window for planting cover crops, said Laura Lindsey with Ohio State University Extension.

“Earlier wheat harvest opens opportunities for a second crop following wheat. In Ohio, double-crop soybeans are the most common crop after wheat harvest, but other crops, such as sunflower, may be planted. The two primary requirements for successful double cropping are: 1) There must be time for the production of a second crop, and 2) There must be adequate water to produce two crops, whether from stored soil moisture, rainfall, or irrigation,” she said in a recent CORN Newsletter from OSU Extension. “The first requirement will likely be met, with earlier wheat harvest and a predicted later first freeze date, but continued dry weather in areas of the state may be problematic.”

Statewide, wheat yields were solid but not as high as 2023.

Ohio’s wheat matured 10-14 days ahead of normal with harvest beginning in mid-June in parts of southern Ohio this year. Ohio yields, in general, were lower than the extremely high 2023 state average of 90 bushels per acre, Lindsey said. Over the previous 5 years, the state average wheat yield ranged from 56 to 85 bushels per acre (an average of 73 bushels per acre).

“Last year, we attributed high yields to low rainfall, and consequently low disease, and cool temperatures, leading to a long grain-fill period,” Lindsey said. “This year, we’ve experienced warmer temperatures, greater disease, and shorter grain-fill periods. Between March 1 and June 16, 2024, there were 1,000, 1,135, and 912 growing degree days at the Northwest Agricultural Research Station, Western Agricultural Research Station, and Wooster Campus, respectively. During the same time period last year, there were 738, 816, and 617 growing degree days at the Northwest Agricultural Research Station, Western Agricultural Research Station, and Wooster Campus, respectively.”

For more from Van Horn’s challenging 2024 field of wheat, visit ocj.com and search for “Van Horn Cab Cam.” The 2024 Cab Cam series is powered by Precision Agri-Services Inc. 

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