The following was published by FarmWeek on Nov. 6 and is reprinted by permission
Wheat yields weren’t quite as good as last year on Justison Farms in Hillsboro.
But the best field still averaged an impressive 126.7 bushels per acre this season, tops in the Illinois Wheat Association’s (IWA) annual wheat yield contest.
“Overall, our yields were down. We had some poor wheat with water damage that we actually tore up this year,” said David Justison. “But that particular field (with the winning entry) was unique. Everything was just right.”
The field avoided extreme water damage from heavy spring rains, it’s surrounded by trees that helped the crop avoid winterkill and it has good fertility with years of hog manure.
Justison, who farms with his son, also named David, focuses on precise wheat planting for specific populations, applies insecticide and fungicide to the crop and uses aerial applications to avoid wheel damage in the crop. His daughter, Patricia Fuchs, a natural resource conservationist, also farms and works as a seed dealer.
“I’m very pro-wheat. We use it a lot on rolling soils as we find it works well (to reduce soil erosion) and we’ve had good luck with yields,” Justison said. “We don’t use a lot of tricks (to boost yields). Some of the important factors are the right soil type and fertility, population is very important and we don’t raise wheat unless we’re going to use fungicide.”
Overall, the top 13 entries in this year’s wheat yield contest all surpassed the 100-bushel mark.
Following Justison, the top five are: Dan Rubin, IWA president from Fayette County (124.7 bushels), Dale Wehmeyer, St. Clair County (119.4 bushels), John Howell (114.5 bushels), and Chris Howell (112.8 bushels).
Statewide, Illinois farmers harvested 520,000 acres of wheat this year, down five percent from 2019. The yield averaged 68 bushels across the state this season, up one bushel from the previous year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Illinois field office.
Wheat production totaled 35.4 million bushels in 2020, down four percent from 2019.
But acres could grow as an ample planting window and attractive prices allowed many farmers to seed wheat in a timely manner in recent weeks.
Winter wheat planting was 94 percent complete in Illinois as of Nov. 2, ten points ahead of the average pace. The majority (82 percent) of the crop emerged as of that date, well ahead of the average pace of 63 percent.
Justison grew 900 acres of wheat this year and boosted plantings to 1,200 acres this fall for the 2021 harvest.
“You can price wheat at $6 (per bushel) for next year and double crop,” he added. “That works well on our farm.”