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Late planted wheat can succeed

Time is running out for Arkansas wheat farmers if they plan to get a crop in the ground this fall, said Jason Kelley, Arkansas Extension wheat specialist.

The optimum planting time has run out for some growers, but all hope is not lost, Kelley said. The university recommends that growers plant no later than Nov. 1 in north Arkansas, Nov. 10 in central Arkansas, and Nov. 20 in south Arkansas.

“These are recommendations for optimum planting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have good yields by planting later. Last year, we had a university verification field planted in mid-November in Greene County that produced exceptional yields,” Kelley said.

Unfortunately, recent wet weather has kept farmers out of their fields. It has been especially bad in northeast Arkansas, which seems to catch every rain that comes along.

Kelley said planting will likely be done by the end of November, adding that when growers plant into December, the chance for successful planting is greatly decreased.

Late-planted wheat yield potential depends on several factors including date of emergence, seeding rate, variety, fertility management, and, of course, the weather during the rest of the fall and winter.

Research has demonstrated that in northeast Arkansas, acceptable wheat yields can be realized as late as Thanksgiving, with little or no yield loss compared to optimum planting dates.

“If it does dry out and we’re beyond the recommended date, producers need to increase seeding rates by 10 to 20 pounds or more. The increase is needed to compensate for the fact there’s less time for wheat to tiller.”

In the Greene County case, the farmer planted 120 pounds of seed per acre on Nov. 11, and the crop emerged about Nov. 25. The farmer harvested 93 bushels of wheat per acre, the highest yield recorded last year in Extension’s Wheat Research and Verification Program.

Kelley noted that a warm, dry fall and winter provided ideal growing conditions last year for late-planted wheat.

“This shows us that we still have potential for good yields if Mother Nature will cooperate with us.”

To help realize good yields in late-planted wheat, Kelley said, farmers not only need to increase the seeding rate, but apply 20 to 30 pounds of nitrogen in the fall to stimulate plant growth and tillering. If phosphorus is required, the DAP fertilizer (18-46-0) is an economical source of phosphorus and likely will provide enough fall nitrogen to stimulate growth and tillering.

Kelley said most farmers probably already have all their seed in hand, but if they have a choice, they should plant early maturing varieties when planting late.

The wheat specialist estimated farmers will plant at least 750,000 acres of wheat. The early planted wheat looks exceptionally good in much of the state.

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