Despite current wheat prices, Don Robinson isn’t backing off on intensive wheat management practices. “I am pushing yields, while trying to maintain 14% to 15% protein,” says the Underwood, N.D., farmer. Some of his standard, every-year intensive management practices are:
Treating seed. This protection increases survivability and keeps roots protected to achieve high yields. He adds Ascend plant growth regulator from Winfield to the seed treatment.
Using different seeding rates for each variety. His seeding rates ranged from 1.35 million to 1.8 million seeds per acre this year.
Applying fungicides. He applies fungicide at the three- to five-leaf stage and at heading to all of his wheat. He applies a fungicide at early flag leaf to those Croplan varieties that show a high-yield response to fungicide.
Split-applying nitrogen. Before or during planting he applies enough N to reach his base yield goal for an average growing season. Then, later in the year, if it looks as if the wheat will yield more and the variety has a higher response to nitrogen, he top-dresses more N. He applies enough N to increase the yield and the protein.
Some of the new intensive management inputs he is trying are:
• Applying Max-In Cooper, a micronutrient from Winfield. He applies it early in the season with the postemergence herbicide. The product enhances plants’ health and yield potential. The data he has looked at shows it provided over a 5-bushel-per-acre yield increase.
• Planting a blended wheat. Robinson always selects high-yielding wheats that respond to intensive management. He likes Croplan varieties. This year he also planted a Croplan WinPak blended wheat. It consists of two varieties that have more yield potential when grown together than separately. WinPak varieties are designed to manage variability and buffer the effects of weather, soil variability and other stresses.
• Applying sulfur to boost protein levels. He and his agronomist take wheat tissue samples during the growing season to determine if there are any nutrient deficiencies. “Last year, correcting a sulfur deficiency with Max-In Sulfur at flag leaf increased protein level by a whole percentage point while supporting my wheat yield,” Robinson says. He also has used ammonium sulfate at planting time.
Robinson is careful only to apply inputs that have offered at least a reasonable return on investment. He reviews as many trials and recommendations from local agronomists as possible before spending additional money.
“I like to look at all the options and then decide,” he says.
Tiffany Braasch, a Winfield master agronomy adviser and certified crop adviser at Washburn, N.D., helps him with tissue sampling, interpreting soil tests results and using Winfield Answer Plot data.
Winfield has 200 sites in the U.S. where it does crop trials and demonstrations. The company has 36 wheat locations, 20 of which are in hard red spring wheat production areas.
Winfield input products, Croplan seed varieties and general crop management practices are tested extensively and proven before they are offered to customers, Braasch says.
“Without this kind of information, it would be a lot harder for me to spend the money on extra inputs,” Robinson says.
In 2015, Robinson says he had good results with his intensive wheat management practices. Croplan wheat fields managed more intensively stood better and yielded about 8 bushels per acre more than his conventionally managed fields.
In 2016, the intensively managed wheats yielded about 10 bushels per acre more than conventionally managed wheats, even though he didn’t add as many late-season inputs because the weather turned dry.
Intensive wheat management was a success both years, he says.
“Mother Nature is still in charge. I am just trying to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves.”