Weather challenges, including subfreezing temperatures, high winds and heavy rain presented some challenges to the winter wheat crop in recent weeks.

But, to borrow the old Timex slogan, the crop once again proved “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

The majority of the wheat crop (63%) ranked good to excellent with 26% fair and 11% poor to very poor statewide as of the first of last week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service Illinois field office reported.

That’s a vast improvement from last year when less than half the crop (44%) ranked good to excellent the last week in April.

There are differences, however, in crop conditions depending on when farmers planted fields last fall. Early planted fields generally look better compared to fields in which planting was delayed due to a late row-crop harvest.

“I think wheat looks good, except the late-planted fields have some thin spots,” Danny Rubin of Fayette County, president of the Illinois Wheat Association, said last week after completing a fungicide application on his crop. “It’s been liking the cooler, drier weather this spring (prior to last week’s storms).”

Wheat plants were more than a foot and a half tall near the end of April and growing quickly on the farm of Dave Hankammer, a FarmWeek CropWatcher from St. Clair County.

“A few fields have some yellowing, which may be due to deficient nutrient uptake,” he said.

Elsewhere, CropWatchers Kevin Raber (Wabash County) and Dan Meinhart (Jasper County) reported most of the wheat survived the cold snap after Easter, which featured low, overnight temperatures down to just 27 degrees on Meinhart’s farm.

“The wheat crop is still looking good, with no signs that the recent cold snap affected it negatively,” Raber said.

While wheat conditions were much improved last week compared to 2019, the portion of the crop rated good to excellent slipped 5% (from 68% to 63%) from April 20 to April 27.

Meanwhile, the portion of the crop that reached the heading stage (6%) last week was less than half the five-year average of 13% across the state.