Spring tour reveals generally good winter wheat crop

ST. STEPHENS CHURCH, VA — Traders, mill representatives and Virginia Cooperative Extension staff got a firsthand look at the quality and yield potential of Virginia-grown wheat during an annual spring tour in late May.

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation partnered with Virginia Cooperative Extension to host two wheat tours on 12 farms on the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. Groups traveled from farm to farm to review wheat production practices, scout fields to estimate yield and quality, and check for signs of disease. Participants will use the information to make purchasing and milling decisions for the year.

Farm Bureau has offered grain marketing services since 1972, and this is the fifth year that Virginia fields were surveyed and included in the multi-state, mid-Atlantic wheat tour.

“The goal is to give producers, and us, an idea of what the next wheat season will bring,” said Josey Moore, VFBF commodity specialist. The outlook helps grain farmers forecast a harvest time, and know where to sell their product.

Robbie Longest, an Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Essex County, said the event is an informal opportunity for stakeholders to network and reflect on the season.

“Producers can see what they are looking for and, as growers, make management decisions to produce a quality commodity wheat crop that buyers will want to buy and utilize at the mills,” Longest explained.

Participants learned the wheat yield potential in the Middle Peninsula is estimated at 80 bushels per acre this season, Moore said.

“We had a lot of really good fields, and some were affected by the dryness, so the quality fluctuated,” she recounted. “But because it has been so dry, we haven’t had to worry about pests as much.”

Groups toured a variety of operations, from large-scale enterprises to small family farms.

“And others are partnered with Extension so they have test plots to try different varieties,” Moore added.

Most wheat grown in Virginia is the soft red winter variety, which is used in flour for bread, pastries, cakes and crackers. Winter wheat grown in the state typically is planted in October or November and harvested in late May through June.

Virginia farmers expect to harvest over 8 million bushels of winter wheat this year, according to the Virginia field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Virginia wheat growers planted 220,000 acres last fall; 130,000 acres will be harvested for grain, while the other 90,000 acres were planted as a cover crop or will be cut for silage or hay.

“Wheat is always a tricky crop for us,” Moore said, “because weather, especially close to harvest time, has a huge impact on it.”

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