DUBOIS, Ill. — As Gerald Kubelski steers his combine across
one of his wheat fields, the yield meter registers good news. But for Kubelski
and many other wheat producers in Illinois, high yields may not be enough this
A crop that showed a lot of promise a few short weeks ago
appears to have morphed into one with a multitude of problems hitting growers in
“It seems like it never did ripen right,” Kubelski said as
he rolled his machine through a field on which he grows seed wheat for a
cooperative. “There is a lot of shriveled up, pink grain. I’m trying to adjust
the combine to blow as much of that out as I can.”
The culprit is fusarium head blight, usually referred to as
scab. The disease is caused by a fungus that thrives on cool, wet evenings and
damp, humid days. Scab usually results in low test weights and high levels of
deoxynivalenol, or vomitoxin.
Terry Dagg, manager of Mount Vernon Elevator, said he has
seen a lot of problems with wheat this season. He has had to dock many loads
because of DON and low test weights. Some have been rejected altogether.
“We’re looking at as much as a couple of dollars on DON, and
the test weights are getting to the point it’s costing a $2 dock,” Dagg said.
“Early on I rejected a few loads because I wasn’t sure I could get rid of it.
But now we’re not really turning anything away.”
Yields, But …
Many producers are reporting good yields. But the effects of
the poor weather conditions have cut into profits.
Brad Conant, who manages the Washington and Perry County
Farm Bureau office, hasn’t heard a lot of good things about the quality of the
wheat in the region.
“Most of the reports coming in are that a good majority of
the wheat coming in has a level of vomitoxin in it,” he said. “It varies. You
hear some stories where they’re taking it to the elevator and getting docks. I’m
hearing some horror stories of $2 to $2.50 a bushel dock.”
It gets worse. There are reports of some farmers actually
getting less than nothing for their effort his season. With dockage for test
weight and DON levels, and the expense of transporting their grain, some wheat
loads are deep in the red.
“I’ve heard a couple of stories about guys who had a
trucking company and hauled their wheat directly to the river in St. Louis and
by the time they got done with the $2 dock just on the vomitoxin level and dock
for low test weight, and they paid the bill for transportation, they owed
money,” Conant said. “It’s obviously not an ideal situation.
“The offset is that it’s really good wheat crop. I’ve heard
some really good yields. One farmer came into the office today and said it’s the
best wheat crop he’s ever harvested on his farm.”
Many who were able to apply fungicide in a timely manner
avoided disease pressure and have had a good harvest. But others haven’t been so
“The wet weather comes on quick. Some guys tried fungicide
by airplane application early,” Conant said. “That stuff can do the job whenever
conditions are right, but whenever it gets wet and stays wet, there’s really not
much you can do about it.”
The condition of the wheat is especially disappointing
considering the crop looked so good. Participants in an annual Illinois wheat
tour had reported little presence of disease and a healthy overall crop.
But frequent rains and humidity provided the ideal
environment for late-season development of disease and low test weights. Carl
Tebbe, who manages the Gateway FS elevator at Nashville, said harvest began with
promise, but has gone downhill for many farmers.
“We started harvest with good test weights — high 50s to
60,” he said. “With the recent rains, those continue to drop a couple of points
with every rain.”
Dagg is seeing the same thing.
“It was like a perfect storm, with a lot of wet weather at
the critical time, when the wheat was flowering and the temperature was warm
enough,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it this bad.”
“In the right conditions wheat can be a really profitable
crop. But when things all line up against you it can sour you pretty quick, as
well,” he said.