EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Illinois wheat growers, who increased planted acreage by 24 percent last fall, were rewarded with record yields.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service, in its latest estimate, pegs the average yield at 67 bushels per acre, which ties the record set in 2006. That is 2 bushels above the July 1 forecast and 4 bushels over the 2012 yield.

That is despite the fact that growing conditions didn’t appear to favor the crop, according to Emerson Nafziger with University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences.

“With the rainfall we had, most of us would say it would be a poor year for wheat,” Nafziger told growers at the Illinois Wheat Forum.

Planted acreage rose from 660,000 a year ago to 820,000 this year. Production is projected at 54.9 million bushels, more than 35 percent higher than the 2012 production and the highest since 2008.

Much of that may be attributed to the severe drought in 2012, especially in areas not usually strong in wheat acreage.

“In eastern Illinois, we were way up in acreage,” Nafziger said. “Some of that had to do with failed corn acreage and people planting wheat who don’t usually grow wheat. There was much more wheat after corn this year and certainly into the south and southeastern Illinois.

“There were some really high nitrogen rates, higher than they probably should have been in some fields. People were putting nitrogen on and getting carryover. With wheat yields, the progress is somewhat encouraging. There is some progress in recent years. We hope those days of 10-plus years ago of less than 50 bushel yields are a thing of the past.”

After planting, much of the wheat had average establishment. Fall growth was variable and was followed by a cold, wet spring.

“Tillering was OK compared to what we had in 2012,” Nafziger said. “It started behind in its development and greened up late, later than normal.”

Harvest was well behind normal. This year, only 45 percent of the crop was harvested by June 30. In an average year, most of the crop has been combined by the end of June.

Test weights on average were fair to poor, not surprising considering late, soaking rains after heading. The average was only about 55 pounds per bushel at three university research plots. But that may not have been as much of a problem as it has been in the past.

“Test weights were not very high anywhere,” Nafziger said. “In southern Illinois, you had good yields, and sometimes when wheat really fills fast and hard, we can get a little bit of reduction in test weight without a reflection in quality.

“Anytime the wheat gets down to 20 percent moisture, then is rained on and wetted back up, the grain will swell. When they dry back down, the starch is not going to return to same configuration.”