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Dry conditions challenge Kansas wheat producers

Dry conditions challenge Kansas wheat producers

Dry soils concern Kansas wheat farmers Planting decisions may affect crop Consider insurance deadlines

Soils have generally been very dry in much of the western half of Kansas this fall. Producers who have yet to plant their wheat basically have three main options, according to Jim Shroyer, Kansas State University Research and Extension crop production specialist.

“First, producers could plant the wheat now into dry soil – ‘dust it in’ at normal seeding depth – and hope for rain. This probably is the best option,” Shroyer said.

The seed will remain viable in the soil until it gets enough moisture. So, rather than cutting back on seeding rates and fertilizer, hoping to save money on a lost cause, producers should increase seeding rates, consider using a fungicide seed treatment, and think about using a starter fertilizer, he said.

Higher seeding rate

“I recommend using higher seeding rates now because where it’s dry, the wheat may not emerge until November,” he said. “Wheat that emerges so late in the season will have fewer fall tillers than wheat that emerges in September or October, so you’ll need more plants per acre to compensate.”

The main risks to this approach include the possibility that a hard rain could crust over the soil or wash soil from the planting ridges into the seed furrows, potentially causing emergence problems, he said.

A second option is to plant more deeply than normal now, if possible into moisture, the Shroyer said. Knowing the length of the variety’s coleoptile – the protective sheath that covers the emerging shoot – is crucial, however, to deciding whether to plant deep to moisture

“This option can work if the variety to be planted has a long coleoptile, the producer is using a hoe drill, and there is good moisture within reach,” he said.

The advantage of this option is that the crop should come up and make a stand during the optimum time in fall, Shroyer said. This would keep soil from blowing.

Emergence question

The main risk of this option is poor emergence. “Deep-planted wheat normally has below-normal emergence, so you should use a higher seeding rate,” he said. “Of course, any rain that occurs before the seedlings have emerged could add additional soil into the seed furrow, making it even harder for the coleoptile to reach the soil surface.”

A third option would be to wait for a rain and then plant.  “Under the right conditions, this would result in good stands, assuming the producer uses a high seeding rate and a starter fertilizer, if appropriate,” Shroyer said.

The risk of this option is that the weather may turn rainy and stay wet, preventing the producer from planting, he said. The soil could remain unprotected from the wind until spring planting, he said.

Crop insurance considerations and deadlines will also play a role in these decisions, Shroyer said.

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