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Hoosier wheat crop looks promising

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A Purdue Professor explains why more farmers decided to plant wheat this year. He also explains the impact extreme winter whether can have on the crop

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Indiana's wheat crop is off to a great start across the state.

Associate Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Purdue University, Mohsen Mohammadi, says the crop looks good.

"It looks good so far," said Mohammadi. "We have had some snaps of freezing cold, but so far so good." 

Not only does the crop look good, but Mohammadi says more farmers planted wheat this year than last year. 

“Compared to last year we’ve had a nearly 50% increase in acreages of winter wheat in the state of  Indiana,” said Mohammadi. “This year the estimate so far is 450,000 planted acres.”

Mohammadi says he believes there’s a reason why more farmers decided to plant wheat this year.

“Ukraine and Russia are among the largest producer and exporters of wheat,” said Mohammadi. “In that regard, they are competing with the United States in terms of wheat exports.”

Mohammadi says there are several benefits of incorporating wheat to your crop rotation, if you aren’t already.

“One of the main benefits is it disrupts the disease cycles in the crops,” said Mohammadi. “For example if corn has a specific disease in the state and then the farmers keep growing corn after the corn, then the crop residue in the soil has those pathogens.” Then they can get on to the  crop next year.

If the residue from the disease stays in the soil, Mohammadi says it can get on the crop you plant the following year.

“If you change the crop rotation of soybean, or wheat, maybe the next crop is not host for that pathogen,” said Mohammadi. “Then that will slow down the disease of the next year.”

Indiana has dealt with a mild winter with little snow. 

Mohammadi says if we see below freezing tempertures and no snow, it can create problems for the wheat crop. 

 “Usually we plant our wheat around October,” said Mohammadi. “During this time of year it’s supposed to be under snow, but I was in the field and there is no snow covering it.”

Mohammadi says the blanket of snow serves as a protective layers.

"If we have lets say a couple of inches of  snow on our crop, right  where the plant touches  the ground is warm because it's under the snow," said Mohammadi. "If there is no snow, the freezing air temperature is going to be dangerous."

The good thing is, the wheat varieties we plant in Indiana Mohammadi says can handle cold temperatures.

“We need a blanket of snow on our wheat,” said Mohammadi. “As long as we have a blanket of snow they are safe and they are not getting the freezing stress.”

Prices were good last year for wheat.

Mohammadi his hopeful for what's ahead.

"It's hard to estimate how the numbers are going to be in the summer," said Mohammadi. "But let's wait and see how the prices change."

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