Ohio Farmer

Tips on how to achieve a good wheat stand.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

January 29, 2008

3 Min Read

High wheat prices may tempt you to grow wheat this fall, especially in double-crop territory. One farmer who swore he would never grow wheat again has already booked his wheat seed. If you haven’t sown wheat recently, here’s a primer to a successful wheat stand. Thanks to Chuck Mansfield, Purdue Extension agronomist based at Vincennes University, for providing the details.

Hold off on planting until fly-free date. It’s not particularly the Hessian fly that Mansfield is concerned about; but he thinks the historical date, while not foolproof, makes a good target. It varies from Sept. 22 in LaGrange County to Oct. 9 in Posey County. “It’s a great guideline for protecting against barley yellow dwarf,” Mansfield says. “If you plant too early, you risk more infection spread by aphids.”

Ideal window. “I like planting from the fly-free date through the next two weeks,” he says. “That gives you the best shot of not getting too much growth, but enough growth so that winter heaving shouldn’t be worrisome.”

Pick right variety. Varieties with better resistance to key diseases, including head scab, are available today, he notes. Also ask about winter hardiness. Occasionally, varieties sneak farther north than they should when winters are mild. Last winter and spring sorted those out, the agronomist notes. “The very warm March followed by cold April hurt some varieties more than others,” Mansfield says. “Winter hardiness includes the ability to withstand sudden shifts in temperature.”

Planting depth. Anywhere from 0.75 to 1.5 inches is acceptable, but 1.0 inch is a good goal, Mansfield believes. He prefers drilling to broadcasting, because uniform depth is a key to even emergence.

Good seedbed. Seed-to-soil contact is critical, he adds. “However, you can still either no-till after corn or disk stalks and then drill, as long as you place seed at the proper depth,” he notes. Some worry about no-tilling into corn residue since a fungus that affects corn uses wheat as an alternate host, showing up as head scab. “There’s so much corn grown this year and spores travel, so that may not be a legitimate reason for not no-tilling into stalks,” he says.

Seeding rate. Shoot for 1.3 million to 1.5 million plants per acre. That means seeding up to 1.7 million seeds per acre. “My recommendations may be on the high side, but you need 30 to 35 plants per square foot for maximum stand,” he notes. How many pounds of seed per acre depends upon size of the seed and number of seeds per pound. Refer to the chart.

Fall fertilizer. Mansfield prefers applying 100 to 120 pounds of diammonium phosphate in the fall. That delivers 18 to 21 pounds of nitrogen, plus 46 to 55 pounds of phosphate per acre. Especially in cool, wet falls, phosphate helps get wheat seedlings started.

Seed treatment. One year test results haven’t shown an economic response for treatments supposedly aimed at stopping aphids. “But we did see a tremendous response to applying insecticides in the spring,” he says. Trials continue this year.

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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