MANHATTAN, KANSAS, U.S. — A combination of record heat, dry soils and high winds in March and April has sapped the wheat in many areas of Kansas this year, especially where the wheat emerged late and is very small in the western areas, said Jim Shroyer, Kansas State University (KSU) Research and Extension crop production specialist.

There is still time for wheat to recover to some extent if rains come in April, Shroyer said, depending on the stage of growth and how severely the wheat has been stressed.

“Maximum head size is already determined where the wheat has jointed, but kernel weight can still respond to good weather and can make up for some of the loss in yield potential,” he said.

“Even if the main tillers have died, secondary tillers can still begin growing this spring if the crown is still alive and the crop receives some rain and cool weather. In 2007, for example, most or all of the main tillers of wheat in central and eastern Kansas were damaged in early April by a hard freeze. Some of this wheat produced secondary tillers after the main tillers had died, and the wheat yielded 10 to 20 bushels per acre in some cases. But the soil had good moisture and weather conditions for the remainder of the spring were ideal in that case,” Shroyer said.

Where the wheat looks bad, Shroyer said producers have a dilemma. What’s the yield potential of that wheat? Is the damage irreversible, or will improved conditions help? It might be a good idea to start planning now for all possibilities, he said.

Producers who have their wheat crop insured cannot take any action until the insurance company loss adjuster releases it. After that, there are a few options from an agronomic perspective, Shroyer said.

Wheat that has failed could be harvested for forage, he said. However, there is probably not enough forage present on short, drought-stressed wheat to be worth cutting, he said.

If producers plan to plant wheat again in the field this fall, they should just leave the failed crop in place over the summer to prevent blowing, then kill the volunteer wheat in early summer before planting next fall, he added.

If the field has been released by the insurance adjuster and the field dies or is terminated, producers could no-till a summer crop into the wheat residue, assuming there is enough moisture and there are no herbicide carryover problems that would prevent it, Shroyer said.

“Producers may be able to plant grain sorghum, summer annual forages, or possibly soybeans into the residue, depending on moisture availability and any cropping restrictions from herbicides applied to the wheat. Foxtail millet is a short-season, summer annual forage that could work well in this situation,” he said.

If the stand of wheat is spotty, with part of the field alive and part dead, then it’s probably best to spray the field with glyphosate before planting the summer crop, Shroyer said.