Producers Looking Hard at Winter Wheat in Wake of Flood Damaged Crops


As farmers continue with the recovery process in the eastern part of the state, NC State Extension Corn Specialist, Dr. Ron Heiniger says winter wheat all of a sudden has a new shine it didn’t have a couple of months ago:

“Growers are turning and looking at things, one of the things is that of course, it’s wheat planting time.  Here about a month and a half ago wheat was a dirty word, when you talked to growers, but now, all of a sudden they’re interested in planting wheat.

Couple or three reasons that I think it’s attractive is they’ve got bills to play, overhead, equipment, land rent, those kinds of things.  And if they could just cover their variable costs and make a few extra dollars they’ll at least contribute to covering that overhead.  

So, they’re looking at wheat in a different way from the profit standpoint.”

Heiniger says that wheat can also be beneficial at helping rehab flooded land and recycle nutrients in preparation for the 2017 crops.

Damage numbers have been very slow to come in, and Heiniger says it’s definitely been difficult to pin down:

“Trying to figure out how much damage we had, it’s been difficult to get  our arms around that.  Some fields looked like they escaped without too much problem, others just took it on the chin.  And of course, we’ve got in these flood basins, the Lumbar River, the Cape Fear where the water was out, so you’ve got contamination fears.

Growers are still trying to get their hands around what all this means and how it’s going to affect them.  I still think we’re still struggling to a price tag on what all this really meant to agriculture in the east.”

In the last week or ten days there’s been a lot of talk about crops that are adulterated and not sellable, even if they can be harvested.  Heiniger says it’s become a real concern for producers:

“It is a real concern among producers, especially in those hard hit areas, the Kinston area, the Lumberton and along these major rivers, because they’re just not sure what to do; whether go ahead and harvest the crop, and some of these crops, like I said, the field may actually look recovered, or at least got through the worst of it without much sign of problems, and now all of a sudden, they’re talking about the field being contaminated.

Can I actually harvest it legally?  Of course, now there’s some new rules developed for crops coming out of contaminated or flood zones, so what does that mean to these guys? 

We’re trying to get some information, it really starts with understanding the level of contamination, I think, if there is some, where is it, how bad is it, is there anything we can do?  That’s the other thing, if the rules allow for some decontamination or mitigation, or diversion, which is the word I think they’re using for that, where do you divert it to? 

How do you decontaminate, it can’t be used for human feed, but can it still be used for livestock?”
Heiniger says there’s been a lot of talk of storms in past years, and there’s reason to look for a silver lining:

“It is difficult here, when we’ve taken such a tough time in the last month to find a good silver lining.  But, I hope growers remember that this too shall pass.  We’ve gone through Floyd, we’ve gone through Isabelle, we’ve had these names come at us a lot here in eastern North Carolina.  We’ve found a way, and we’ll find a way again.”

NC State Extension Corn Specialist, Dr. Ron Heiniger'

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.