Mild winter temperatures created ideal growing conditions for the wheat, and the late fall planting did not give most diseases enough time to attack before winter set in. If temperatures continue to stay above freezing at night, the wheat is expected to be excellent.
"We got through the winter with essentially no winter kill, which is a very good thing," says Herbert Ohm, a Purdue University agronomist. "It's still quite early, and the temperatures from here on into the summer will determine what the crop yield will be. But the wheat is generating a lot of growth, tillering very profusely, and at this point in time it looks terrific."
Entomologists are predicting that insects could be a larger problem than normal this year. Additionally, just as wheat is thriving early, so, too, are weeds, especially winter annuals that did not die during the winter. It is still too early, however, to tell which insects and diseases will be dominant this spring, so it is crucial for farmers to pay close attention to their fields.
"The best advice I can give farmers - and they need to especially pay attention to this during this year because of the strange weather conditions - is that they really need to monitor their fields," Ohm said. "Wheat, corn, soybeans, everything. Regularly. Weekly. So if they start seeing a problem developing, insects or disease or anything unusual, they can call or get in touch with a specialist right away.
"With commodity and input prices being as high as they are, farmers can't afford to not pay attention to their fields."