05/30/06 — Farmers could start harvesting wheat crop

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Farmers could start harvesting wheat crop

By Turner Walston
Published in News on May 30, 2006 1:51 PM

Farmers in Wayne and surrounding counties could begin harvesting wheat this week, said Kevin Johnson, a crop agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. The recent spate of hot weather has helped ripen the crop, he said.

"I suspect there may be some picked toward the end of this week in the southern part of the county," Johnson said.

The wheat crop could turn out better than is expected, but Johnson said most likely it would be an average yield.

"We may get into it, and it may be a bumper crop. But it's short, it did have some adverse weather conditions on it, and I suspect it's going to be an average wheat crop," he said.

Last year, 23,000 acres of wheat were harvested in Wayne. Johnson said he expects about the same amount of acres this year.

"It's not changed much, talking to farmers," he said. "A few of them quit, but then a few of them planted a little more."

Grain buyers need wheat that meets certain moisture standards, Johnson explained, so farmers hope the weather cooperates when the wheat kernels reach maturity.

"You want to be done by the first of July, or you hope. It dries out as it gets warmer," he said.

Many farmers will plant soybeans in the wheat fields immediately following harvest. Johnson said the double-cropping system allows growers to make the most of their land.

If the straw left after wheat is harvested is tall and thick, it often has to be burned before planting soybeans, but Johnson said many farmers may not find that chore necessary this year. This year's wheat crop got little rain during its formative stages, he said, and what straw is left probably won't present a problem.

"I don't think wheat straw is going to be a real issue this year," Johnson said.

Johnson said a recent stretch of warm weather is helping other crops in the field now. The dry weather has hindered growth but it is still early in the season for the major summer field crops.

"Right now, the farmers are a little down because the crops have been growing slow. They don't feel good about them, but I think they'll catch up. I think right now our potential is still very good for our tobacco, cotton and corn crop," Johnson said, but he added it could take several weeks before fields show marked improvement.

"There's some recovery time. Now that we've got warm temperatures, they're starting to grow, but it takes them a little time and they're behind."

In coming weeks, farmers will be spraying cotton and corn to kill weeds, before their stalks get too high. Tobacco will be sprayed for budworms.

Johnson said early indications are that the Nickels for Know-How program will continue. A statewide vote held Thursday on the program, which adds a 15 cents per ton charge on fertilizer. The money is used for North Carolina Agricultural Foundation programs.

"The last correspondence we got from Raleigh was 75 percent of the counties had responded, and 94.5 percent voted favorably for it," Johnson said. "Not everybody's responded, but I'll bet you that's probably enough to secure that the referendum continue."