University of KentuckyCollege of Agriculture

A Comprehensive Guide to Wheat Management in Kentucky

Section 1. Introduction

Chad Lee, James Herbek, and Richard L. Trimble

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Photo1.1 Soft red winter wheat(Triticum aestivum) grown in kentucky is a valuable commodity and an important component to crop rotations.

The soft red winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) grown in Kentucky provides flour for cookies, cakes, pastries, and crackers and is the fourth most valuable cash crop in the state (Figure 1-1). Winter wheat has been an integral part of crop rotation for Kentucky farmers. Wheat is normally harvested in June in Kentucky and provides an important source of cash flow during the summer months. Several trends should be examined when considering the economic potential of wheat production in the state (see Section 9 Economics of the Intensively Managed Wheat Enterprise).

Improvements in varieties and adoption of intensive wheat management practices have resulted in dramatically increased wheat yields. Prior to 1987, the highest average yield achieved in Kentucky was 42 bushels per acre; since 1987, averages have been at least 49 bushels per acre in all but two years (Figure 1-2). State average yields have been 59 bushels per acre for the past decade and 62 bushels per acre for the past five years. State averages were above 70 bushels per acre in 2006 and 2008. Continued increases in yield help to keep wheat in the crop rotation.

The average yield of wheat trend has been upward, but the number of acres of wheat planted in the state has declined since 1981. Harvested acres were 680,000 in 1981 and were 460,000 in 2008 (Figure 1-3). Fluctuation in wheat acres harvested is a function of government programs, crop condition and economics.

Fig1.1 Kentucky crop values according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service
Kentucky crop values according to the kentucky Agricultural statistics service
Fig1.2 Kentucky average wheat yields according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service
Kentucky average wheat yields according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service
Fig1.3 Kentucky planted and harvested wheat acres according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics
Kentucky planted and harvested wheat acres according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service

This publication will help you use wheat management practices to improve the competitiveness of wheat in your crop rotation. There is no single best wheat management prescription for all circumstances, but this comprehensive publication explains the principles of wheat growth and management so you can make decisions appropriate to your situation. This publication also will help troubleshoot problems encountered during the growing season. If you use and adopt the following principles and practices, you should see increased yields, higher profits, and improved environmental protection from your wheat fields.

The important steps for intensive wheat management can be summarized in 18 steps. The application of these steps at the proper stage of growth and time of year is the basis for obtaining maximum and efficient wheat yields. (See Winter Wheat Calendar [ID-125A].)

18 Steps for Maximum Winter Wheat Yields

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Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, M. Scott Smith, Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Lexington, and Kentucky State University, Frankfort. Copyright 2009 for materials developed by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension. this publicaiton may be produced in portions or its entirety for educational or nonprofit purposes only. Permitted users shall give credit to author(s) and include this copyright notice. Publications are also avaliable on the World Wide Web at Issued 7-2009.