Assessments of the state’s current wheat crop left participants in the second annual Virginia Wheat Tour optimistic last week.
On May 31, representatives of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Dogwood Agribusiness Services, The Mennel Milling Co., Perdue AgriBusiness, The Scoular Co. and Virginia Cooperative Extension scouted seven farms on the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. The tour was organized and hosted by Farm Bureau in cooperation with farmers in New Kent, Essex, Middlesex, Richmond, Westmoreland and Lancaster counties.
The group noted greater yield potential than that of last year, with mostly light to moderate disease pressure, said VFBF Grain Division Manager Robert Harper. “We did see two fields with moderate to heavy disease pressure, likely from the stress of cold weather in March and an untimely freeze,” Harper said, adding that there is a chance weather pressure still could significantly affect the crop before harvest.
Overall, he said, “we were impressed with the management each producer has put into their wheat crop over the past nine months. If the weather cooperates until harvest, we could see higher yields than 2016 and high quality.”
That’s useful pre-harvest information, he explained, for millers, granary operators and traders. Virginia Farm Bureau has offered a grain marketing service for its members since 1972.
This is the second year Virginia fields have been included in the larger Mid-Atlantic Wheat Tour, which will be held June 12 and 13 in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Visits to Virginia farms were held earlier because the state’s wheat crop will be ready and harvested earlier than those of the other states, Harper explained.
Virginia farmers plant about 240,000 acres of soft red winter wheat on 1,600 farms annually. Wheat is an important crop for farmers who rotate it with corn and soybeans. It offers excellent environmental benefits by keeping farm fields in production over winter months.