To describe this year as unusual would be an understatement. Although, most fields were planted around the optimum planting date (November 1), plants have progressed rapidly due to one of the mildest winters on record. The earliest maturing varieties are fully headed (Feekes 10.5), while the latest maturing varieties are in Feekes 8 (beginning of flag leaf emergence). By our estimate, wheat development is 10 days to two weeks ahead of normal.

The greatest threat to early maturing wheat is a late freeze. Our average last frost date is March 21. At this writing, the 15 day forecast does not show temperatures to dip below 40 degrees, so we are likely to “dodge that bullet” this year. In the 29 years I have been working with wheat, I have only seen three freezes in April, so it is an unusual event.

So what does this mean to our local wheat industry? I suspect it means a longer grain filling period, which will produce higher yields. But we still have challenges to meet. Lush green plants can be a haven for insect pests and plant diseases.