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2021 Wheat Crop Near Average Yields, Clean

2021 Wheat Crop Near Average Yields, Clean

By Heidi Reed 

Grain brokers, millers, agronomists, and agronomy educators toured wheat growing regions in southern Pennsylvania in early-June to estimate yield and evaluate growth stage, stand density, and disease presence in soft red winter wheat. The annual tour allows mills and brokers to project how grain markets may be influenced by the 2021 crop and gives agronomists and agronomy educators insight into what is working or not working for their wheat growers.

Twelve fields were evaluated across 6 counties. The fields represented a wide range of winter wheat varieties, crop rotations, fertility management, and pest management.


Fields for which we were able to collect background data had wheat typically planted after corn grain, but sometimes after soybeans and one after snap beans followed by a cover crop mix of oats and buckwheat. Fields were no-tilled except for two locations, where minimum (vertical) tillage was used. Planting dates ranged from September 29 to October 15. Except for one location where wheat was planted at 15-inch spacing, fields were drilled at 7.5-inch spacing.

Varieties from several different seed companies were evaluated. Interestingly, the highest yielding field toured was grown from bin-run seed. Seeding rate ranged from 1.2 to 2.0 million seeds per acre, though no trends for seeding rates were noted (for example, increased seeding rate at later dates, higher yield potential, etc.).

Almost all nitrogen was split-applied, with a wide range of rates depending on preceding crop N credit, N source, tillage practice, and predicted grain yield. Dairy manure was one of the N sources on one of the toured fields. Growth regulators were used in half of the fields. No growth regulator was used in Franklin, Lancaster, or Lebanon Counties, while use was widespread in York, Adams, and Berks Counties. Growth regulator use was not correlated with early planting date or any other factors.

Almost all fields on the tour received both early and late fungicide applications; all fields were sprayed at least once, at flowering.


Favorable weather around flowering plus late season fungicide application resulted in no head scab (Fusarium head blight) to less than 1% presence in all fields this year. However, since wheat maturity during the tour was around the milk to soft dough stage, it is possible that some further scab development could occur, but was not visible at the time of the tour.

Incidence of one or more of powdery mildew (generally low in the canopy from early in the season), Stagnospora leaf blotch, and glume blotch was noted at low to moderate levels in a handful of fields.

Widespread but very low levels of slug and cereal leaf beetle feeding damage was noted, except one field in Franklin County that had significant cereal leaf beetle damage.

Abiotic factors:

Little to no freeze damage was noted this year, compared to fairly widespread damage in 2020.

Yield Estimates:

Stands across all sites were "excellent," with greater than 35 plants per foot.

South Central – Adams, York, Cumberland (2019-2020), Franklin (2021)

2021 – 8 field average yield estimate: 103 bu/A (range 81-140 bu/A)

2020 - 5 field average yield estimate: 110 bu/A (range 81-139 bu/A)

2019 tour average yield estimate: 81 bu/A (range 60-120 bu/A)

Eastern – Columbia, Lehigh, Northampton

2021 – no data

2020 - 7 field average yield estimate: 86 bu/A (range 67-115 bu/A)

2019 tour average yield estimate: 89 bu/A (range 68-103 bu/A)

Southeast PA – Berks, Lebanon

2021 – 5 field average yield estimate: 79 bu/A (range 68-111 bu/A) *Low spikelet counts at some locations due to participant error likely reduced average yield.

2020 - 9 field average yield estimate: 99 bu/A (range 44-119 bu/A) *With low "take-all" outlier (44 bu/A) removed, average yield increased to 105 bu/A.

2019 tour average yield estimate: 99 bu/A (range 88-106 bu/A)

Similar reports of good quality and average to above average yield were given from teams touring the Delmarva and Eastern Shore regions.

Average yields presented were estimated several weeks before harvest, and randomly sampled from a few locations in large fields using the protocol outlined in the article " The Home Stretch: Evaluating Your Small Grain Crops ". These estimates may not reflect actual harvest yields on different fields, even in the same area. Since the wheat tour took place, some isolated heavy rainfall has already caused lodging in some fields, which will result in lower yields. With harvest set to start in the next 2-3 weeks in the southeast, we hope yield and quality will hold, save some lodging from expected scattered thunderstorms.

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