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Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Local farmers plant more wheat to capture higher prices

Good yields plus high prices could equal highest value wheat crop ever in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois

By Nancy Allen
With the wheat harvest almost done in Mercer County, producers are smiling at their yields and high market prices.
A lot of the county's wheat has looked good all along, local ag officials say, but farmers are always reluctant to believe it until it's harvested.
Mark Houts, who farms about 7 miles northwest of Celina, is happy with what he sees.
"It looks pretty good. I hesitate to say it's the best ever, but it's definitely the best we've had in several years," Houts said late last week. "One field made a little over 90 bushels per acre and some are in the mid to upper 80s."
Houts said last year his wheat ranged between 60 to 70 bushels per acre, with the mid to upper 60s the most common.
Some of the cooler weather the county had in May, though not beneficial to the corn and soybeans, actually helped the wheat, he said.
Houts said he did not plant any more wheat than he normally does, but heard that other farmers did, most likely to cash in on higher market prices.
After the wheat is harvested, the stalks can be harvested for straw, which is used mostly as bedding for cattle in the local area.
"I think around here some of it (increased planting) may be related to the straw market with the large numbers of livestock here, and the big demand for straw probably enticed people to plant more too," he said. "Last fall we also had nice, dry conditions for planting wheat."
Louis Schwieterman, who farms about 3 miles southeast of Montezuma, said his wheat looks good too, though he harvested it a bit later than he usually does due to a cool spring and rainy conditions later on.
"It seems to be pretty good stuff. It's a little over the test weight at about 61 right now," Schwieterman said. "Normally it's about 58 pounds per bushel. It's a good weight and quality."
Schwieterman, who also raises dairy cattle, said he did not plant any more wheat this year than he normally does, because he tries to stick to a set amount for his cattle's needs, especially straw for bedding.
His yields last year were all over the board, with most of it in the 50s to 60s bushel per acre. This year his wheat has been getting in the mid to upper 70 bushels per acre.
Figures from the Mercer County Farm Service Agency show that county producers this year planted more wheat. Last year Mercer County farmers certified 25,148 wheat acres to the FSA office. Producers have not finished reporting their crops this year, but the 91 percent of farms which have shows that 25,468 wheat acres have been certified for this year.
"If you extrapolate that out based on the certification rate, it appears this year there will be about a 2,000 acre increase in wheat acres," said Chris Gibbs, executive director of the Mercer County FSA.
Gibbs attributed most, if not all the reason why farmers planted more wheat, to higher market prices.
Mercer County OSU Extension Agent Todd Mangen said the high price for fertilizer also might have driven farmers to plant more wheat than corn. Wheat requires less fertilizer than corn.
"It comes down to dollar for dollar per acre, it's going to take more fertilizer to grow corn than wheat," Mangen said.
Mangen said a lot of people planned to double crop this year too, which can only be done by planting wheat first, harvesting the wheat and then immediately planting soybeans.
"Your soybean crop won't be as large as if you got them in by the end of May or end of June, but you're still going to end up with a decent crop if we get good weather conditions and good commodity prices," he said. "Then you're going to end up with a pretty good income with the double crop beans."
According to information from the Purdue University Cooperative Extension, farmers in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois increased wheat planting by 24 percent.
"The three states are expected to produce 180 million bushels of wheat this year," said Chris Hurt, Purdue University Cooperative Extension agricultural economist. "This means it's the biggest wheat crop in years for the region."
Hurt said this could mean a record value for this year's crop.
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