Lessee put cold wet spring to good use

Wheat harvest on state trust land

The 2011 wheat harvest is behind us!  Now is a great time to reflect on how the unusually cool, wet spring affected the wheat crop, and how DNR depends on its knowledgeable lessees to make decisions that keep state trust lands productive.

Chris Herron (Herron Brothers Partnership) leases more than 300 acres of state trust lands in north Franklin County—in addition to his deeded and privately leased property. Mr. Herron stated that the weather was “a blessing in disguise. The wet spring allowed the wheat to mature without drought stress.” However, the harvest had to be pushed back a full two weeks, and conditions were just right for Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus and both Leaf and Striped Rust.

Experience and training helped Mr. Herron anticipate his crop needs. For example, the wet weather pushed nitrogen deeper into the soil profile and seemed to bring out every weed in the county.  Mr. Herron was prepared in advance to apply just the right amount of fertilizer and herbicide in a timely manner to meet crop demands.

Mr. Herron stated that managing a dryland farm is like managing a 5-gallon bucket of water that’s full of holes—the water being your potential income. The one hole you can’t plug is your annual rainfall; you are at the mercy of Mother Nature.  However, when you have a wet year like we had, that hole moves higher up the bucket, leaving you more potential income but also exposing other holes—such as added fertilizer, herbicide, and fungicide costs. Those are holes you can plug, but at a cost.

Mr. Herron’s prime winter wheat ground produced yields in the 63 bushel per acre range, and re-crop spring wheat yields were in the 30+ bushel per acre range. DNR will recognize another record harvest from state trust lands, thanks in part to forward-thinking growers like Mr. Herron.

Photo by Dale Warrner