But this particular flag isn't red, white and blue: It's green. The flag leaves have emerged on the 2012 wheat crop. (It's the leaf at the top of the wheat stalk pictured above.)
The wheat is in the stem extension - or jointing - stage. (See the chart from Oklahoma State University above).
Right now, the wheat head is still concealed in the "boot," the part of the plant that Randy is pointing to in the photo below.
When Randy carefully took his fingernail and split open the stem, he revealed the wheat head. Soon it will poke out of the stem on its own.
On Monday and Tuesday, the co-op sprayed our wheat with the fungicide, Stratego. It provides very good protection against leaf rust and stripe rust, important since those diseases are present in Texas and Oklahoma and drifting into our state.
In several years of field trials at K-State, the application of fungicides between the flag leaf and flowering stages of wheat development resulted in a yield boost of 4 to 14 percent. Having the sprayer travel over the wheat field, however, reduces the yield by about 2 percent because it knocks down some wheat (See photo of tracks below). Some people have the fungicide sprayed on by airplane, but it's more expensive. Plus, a crop duster can't add the recommended amount of water mixed with the fungicide.
It's kind of a calculated risk: Will the cost of the expensive fungicide pay off with a better crop? Only time will tell. After some calculations, Randy thinks if the fungicide saves 3 bushels of wheat per acre, it will pay for itself.
A foliar fungicide application will not make a 40-bushel crop into a 60-bushel crop, but it will prevent a 60-bushel crop from being reduced to a 40-bushel crop by foliar disease.Bob Hunger, an Oklahoma State University wheat disease specialist,
and Jeff Edwards, an OSU Extension wheat specialist
Earlier this month, Randy used a chart to calculate potential yield. He counted the number of tillers per foot and determined that some of our fields had a potential of 61 bushels of wheat to the acre. That's an exceptional yield potential for us.
So, in order to protect the potential, he opted to spray the crop with fungicide.
So, is your bag of flour safe after farmers spray fungicide on the developing crop? Yes, as long as farmers follow the restrictions on when to apply it and how long after the application the crop is harvested.
Believe me, farmers and their families want a safe and affordable food supply, too. We buy bags of flour at the store. We buy that loaf of wheat bread and feed it to our families.
The 2012 wheat crop is ahead of schedule, but there is still a lot of time - and uncertainty - between now and a bumper crop. Weather, hail and disease could conspire against us. But, as usual, my farmer is a glass-half-full kind of guy. You have to love that about him.