As Eric Williams waded into a chest-high stand of wheat on a sunny, late-April day, the full heads were just taking on the first hint of an amber hue and stirred by a gentle breeze they performed a whispery rustle sound that promises—maybe just hints at—an abundant harvest.

Williams suggested the field might average better than 40 bushels per acre.

He expects more, however. “I think wheat yields this year will please everyone,” he said. “Wheat looks pretty good.” He won’t predict how good he thinks the crop will be, displaying an almost universal farmer superstition of counting eggs too quickly and cognizant of the possibility of weather disasters that can wipe out even the best potential in a matter of minutes.

Williams, who farms near Aberfoyle,Texas, says growing conditions for most of the Northeast corner of the state “have been ideal from the time we planted. It grew off well and broke dormancy early.” He figures he was three to four weeks from harvest in late-April.

Texas AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist Jim Swart, who works out of Commerce, says this crop has more potential than any wheat crop he’s seen in almost 30 years serving this area.

Ample fall and winter rain, in addition to a mild winter and farmers who manage for high yields, add to the optimism, Swart says.

But this growing season has not been without challenges. “Ideal growing conditions for wheat also mean an ideal climate for challenges,” Williams says. “Warm, moist weather increases the potential for disease pressure.”

Swart says he’s seen more glume blotch this year than usual. “But a higher incidence of glume blotch indicates a good growing environment.”

Williams got by, however, without applying fungicide. “I planted two resistant varieties, Syngenta Coker 9553 and USG 3555.” Both of those have resistance to stripe and leaf rust.

Williams scouted for disease and insect pressure to make certain. “I would have made dual applications if I had found damaging infestations,” he says. He saw some armyworms and “some flag leaf damage, but less than 1 percent. I held off spraying. I had applied Axial XL herbicide so we already had tracks in the field. Another trip would not have hurt yield potential (from damaged stalks). We just didn’t need it.”

He’s more concerned about ryegrass, especially herbicide resistant types. “If there were a way to eradicate ryegrass, I would support it,” he says.

“Next year I’ll treat every acre with Axiom herbicide right after the wheat comes up, and follow it with Axial XL later. It’s hard to predict which fields will be infected with ryegrass.”

Typically, he has little ryegrass infestations in fields planted behind corn, but he saw some this year.