Originally published December 21, 2022
2022 was a season U.S. growers will never forget. From battling drought conditions and needing to capture applied nitrogen, to reaching insect economic thresholds multiple times in one season. Growers could not catch a break.
A Deeper Look at 2022
Our industry is always at the mercy of Mother Nature, but this year in particular has been one for the books. Spring, in many key row-crop states, was off to a great start with adequate moisture in the soil, but the spigot got turned off in June and thus began the prolonged wait for rainfall. Some areas went 40-50 days without rain during corn pollination and soybean bloom, while other areas had enough small, sporadic periods of rainfall to squeeze their way through the season.
Drought added another issue widely encountered this growing season: capturing applied nitrogen. Thanks to the combination of these two issues, we saw a fair amount of stunted plant growth and inhibited leaf growth that ended up contributing to lower yields in certain regions.
In the Delta region, the perfect storm came to fruition with drought and extreme corn earworm infestations. Although retailers, growers and crop consultants scouted fields regularly and made sound management recommendations, growers were reaching economic thresholds for corn earworm every three weeks. The drought compounded the issue, causing corn to dry down rapidly, which encouraged corn earworm moths to move north quickly to feed on corn, cotton and soybeans. Due to these conditions, we witnessed the largest number of moth trappings since 2008.
This combination of elements brings one question to mind: What were the yield outcomes on our key row crops? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service Market Outlook, corn production was increased by 25 million bushels in November due to a boost in feed and residue use. The agency has forecasted total corn production to reach 13,930 million bushels in 2022. Soybean yields are forecasted to be 4.35 billion bushels, while winter wheat is projected to reach 272 million planted acres in 2022, 36% higher year-over-year. The U.S. cotton crop is expected to be the smallest in 9 years with only 7.9 million harvested acres, compared to 10.3 million acres in 2021.
Looking Ahead to 2023: The Wheat Opportunity
Earlier this summer, the Purdue University/CME Ag Economy showed that 22% of U.S growers surveyed intend on planting more winter wheat acres in 2023. Wheat acres and double cropped wheat fields are expected to total 36.6 million acres in the U.S.
The wheat market has experienced tremendous shifts and changes over the last 5 to 10 years. Now, thanks to an increase in wheat acres and price in the last few growing seasons, there is momentum behind this crop and a real opportunity for growers to be successful with it in 2023 and beyond. One way growers can achieve a significant ROI and sustain success with wheat is by managing the crop correctly throughout the growing season. This requires focusing on areas that have proven to contribute to high-yielding wheat, like the split application of nitrogen, aggressive weed management programs and fungicide applications.
There’s also the chance history could repeat itself in 2023. In the fall of 2012, the industry experienced limited rainfall, lower yields from spring-planted crops, a faster fall season and earlier planting of winter wheat. Sound familiar? That year, U.S. wheat production was 12% higher than in 2011 due to the recovery from severe drought conditions. We should not be surprised to see growers who chose to plant winter wheat this fall have a large increase in yield and quality come harvest time.
What’s Driving 2023 Decisions?
Supply of certain products is expected to still be limited, but many retailers are aggressively taking steps to ensure their customers have everything they need. Expect the early purchasing habit that gained steam the last two years to continue.
Secondly, but most importantly, finances. With inflation and elevated input costs, the pocketbook more than ever will drive growers’ decisions. Still, we cannot let our agronomics slip or cut corners when it comes to areas like application rates. Growers need to continue to plan for a successful season by building a program with crop protection at the forefront and stick to that mapped out plan.
Even with all the ups and downs of 2022, 2023 poses a lot of opportunities for growers to capitalize on. Time to set our sights on what’s to come and get to work.