Sawfly is cutting into wheat harvest

It might just be best to get the 2022 winter wheat harvest wrapped up and put it in the past.
Yields have been low, though the quality has been surprisingly strong, following a very dry growing season. Plus, the market price has fallen during the harvest season.

And now harvest has revealed that the wheat stem sawfly is spreading throughout the region.
Adults lay their eggs in the stems of wheat plants. The larva live in the stem, and near the end of their feeding, and near the end get big enough they end up cutting the stem off.
Local agronomist Merlin VanDeraa said there are no preventative measures or fixes for the sawfly, and it is difficult to know they are there even with scouting. The presence of the sawfly tends to show up within days of harvest.
“That’s the problem,” VanDeraa said.
Washington County farmer Jordan Willeke said it comprises the stem enough to impact quality and yield even if the plant does not fall down.
CSU Extension Agronomist Ron Meyer said the best strategy currently involves planing a sawfly tolerant wheat that has solid or semi-solid stems.
The pest has been an issue for years in Canada, Washington State and Montana. VanDeraa said it first appeared in northeast Colorado in the Sterling area, relentlessly marching north to south. Many wheat fields in northern Yuma and Washington counties have been severely impacted, and now it is being seen in some fields south of the Highway 34 corridor.

Meyer said adult wheat stem sawflies how have been found as far south as Lamar.
“Sawfly has taken its toll,” CHS’s Lisa Hageman said. “It’s slowly moving this way.”
Sawfly-impacted wheat plants results in the wheat falling to the ground before or during harvest. That makes it difficult to pick up the wheat, with much of it simply lost on the ground. One option is to swath it into rows, then pick it up, but the negative impact already is experienced.
VanDeraa said the challenge going into the future might be trying to figure out an effective and efficient way to pick up the wheat off the ground.
The heavy rain at mid-week last week slowed down the local harvest a bit, but it should come to an end for the most part by the end of this weekend if the hot and dry conditions persist as predicted.
Even without wheat stem sawfly, the majority of the region’s winter wheat fields already were challenged by dry conditions during planting last fall, and almost universally dry conditions throughout the winter, spring, and early summer leading up to harvest.
Area sources report yields mostly are falling between 20 to 40 bushels per acre for dryland fields, which comprise the vast majority of winter wheat fields in the region, with most yields falling closer to the lower end of that range — or even below.
Some areas received timely moisture, such as Vernon to Idalia, resulting in some higher yields.
Elevator operators report, however, that quality has been surprisingly strong. Rob Baar at Stratton Equity Co-op in Kirk said test weight have averaged around 60 pounds, and protein has averaged around 12 percent. Dalton Hinde with West Plains reported average test weight in the 60-pound range, and protein ranging 11 to 15 percent. Hageman at CHS reported similar numbers — 60.8 average test weight, and 12.3 percent average protein.
“Of what’s out there, quality has been surprisingly good,” Hageman said.
Hinde noted it has been mostly poor conditions for area winter wheat fields ever since the crop was planted last fall.
“I don’t get how it even held on,” he told the Pioneer last week. “I think people are happy considering everything that has happened.”