Those producers that are planning to plant wheat could sure use some moisture as the top three inches of soil have really dried out over the last few weeks.

Spring wheat, best suited for the local area because of our lack of chill hours, should be planted from early December through mid-January at a seeding rate of about 90 pounds per acre.

Long range forecasts point to a dry winter in the Coastal Bend that does not bode well for winter crops like wheat. During the growing season, one inch of moisture will translate into about 3.5 bushels of wheat, so to produce a 30-bushel wheat crop we would need to receive 8.5-inches of rain or have that equivalent stored in the soil profile during the growing season.

High fertilizer costs have forced us to seriously evaluate what a crop actually needs and uses. In the case of wheat, the plant needs 1.5 pounds of nitrogen for each bushel produced, so a 30-bushel wheat crop would need 45 pounds of nitrogen.

With the drought of last spring, there could be some residual nitrogen left in the soil profile, but only soil testing would reveal that. Phosphorus, another important soil nutrient is used at about .77 pounds per bushel of wheat produced. Our soils are typically high in potassium, so that is not usually a concern.

I will be establishing a wheat variety test in the southern part of Nueces County this year to help evaluate which varieties are best suited to our area. Now all we need to hope for is that those wheat prices rebound to the levels that we saw this past spring and that we get some needed rainfall.

Irrigation Training Program set for Coastal Bend

Efficient irrigation systems and their operation and management along with information on local groundwater quality and salinity issues will be the spotlight of the Gulf Coast Irrigation Conference and Trade Show Nov. 18 in Sinton.

The conference and trade show is set for 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the San Patricio County Fairgrounds and Civic Center at 219 5th St. in Sinton.

Irrigation and groundwater experts will present information on improving the efficiency of furrow irrigation and pumping systems, using soil moisture devices and ET for crop management and managing or reclaiming saline soils. In the afternoon session, salt domes, oil brine contamination and gulf coast aquifer water quality will be discussed by representatives from the Railroad Commission and the Bureau of Economic Geology.

Juan Landivar, director of the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Corpus Christi, will discuss the potential of irrigation crops in the Coastal Bend as the keynote lunch speaker.

Registration is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. To register, contact Duane Campion, San Patricio County Extension office, at (361)-364-6234.

Participants can receive two hours of certified crop advisor or pesticide applicator continuing education credits.

The Gulf Coast event is the fourth of six ITP events being held around the state to help farmers and others learn about efficient tools and techniques of irrigation management. Each event will offer region-specific information about irrigation practices, cropping systems, policy updates and cost-share programs available to local producers. The next event is set for Jan. 14, 2009 in Amarillo, and the final event, the South Texas Irrigation Conference, will be Jan. 20, 2009 in Hondo.

These conferences are part of the Irrigation Training Program, a collaborative effort of TWRI, AgriLife Extension, Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Texas Water Development Board funds the project through its Agricultural Water Conservation Grant program.

Other sponsors of the Sinton event are Texas A&M AgriLife's Irrigation Technology Center.

For more information about the Coastal Bend conference, visit http://itc.tamu.edu/conferences.php.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5217.