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Not Too Late Plant Wheat

Not Too Late Plant Wheat

New outlook is for cool wet early summer, which would favor small grains.

There's been some talk that it's getting too late to plant wheat and barley.

Wheat, barley, and oat are cool season annuals and are most productive when they grow and develop during cool weather, says Jochum Weirsma, Univeristy of Minnesota extension small grains specialist.

The yield potential of a crop is largely determined by the 6 leaf stage. Cool temperatures during this period are particularly important for the development of a high yield potential.

The yield potential of a crop is largely determined by the 6 leaf stage. Cool temperatures during this period are particularly important for the development of a high yield potential.

For example, the number of tillers that ultimately produce grain at harvest declines as planting is delayed. The number of spikelets per spike is determined during the 4 to 5.5 leaf stage.  Spikelet numbers are negatively correlated with temperature; spikelet numbers are greater when temperatures during the 4-5.5 leaf stages are cool.

Because of the expectation that average temperatures will be higher as we plant later, development of the crop will speed up too. The number of heat units required for a plant to move to the next phase of development will accumulate faster. This forces development along faster and causes the plant to have less time to grow. Plants end up with fewer tillers, smaller heads, and fewer and smaller kernels per head, cutting into our yields.

To improve the odds of high grain yields is to ensure that the tillering and head initiation phases occur during relatively cool temperatures is by planting early. Early planting is pivotal in this regard.

Research has shown that, on average, yields decreased 1% per day when planting is delayed past the optimum planting date. Planting after the last possible date is not recommended because the odds that grain yield and quality (test weight) will be dramatically reduced due to heat stress.

You can partially offset this yield loss by increasing the seeding rate and ensuring that you have more main stems per unit area, Wiersma says.

The recommendation is to increase the seed­ing rate by 1 percent for every day after the optimum plant­ing window.

The last possible date for planting is not chiseled in stone. The chances of a profitable crop just drop because of the anticipated weather and temperatures later during the growing season. Past the last possible date, you may want to consider an alternative crop, though economic reality might prevent this.

If you stay with small grains past that date you will have to hope for a cool and dry summer.

The National Weather Service's latest Season Outlook indicates that odds favor cooler and wetter weather than average over the northern Plains during May, June and July.

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