Eddie Sholar doesn't do it for a contest nor for the attention of a story. His wheat management strategy aims for one result — a high-yielding return on investment.
Over the last three years, Sholar's average wheat yields have been more than double Georgia's average statewide yields. He farms in the southwest region of the state. It's a heavy peanut and cotton area, and he shoots for high-yield returns on those crops, too, but his approach to wheat may differ from most Georgia growers.
This past winter, he averaged 90 bushels per acre across a 160-acre stretch. He was disappointed in that average, but considering his area experienced a very mild winter with little cool weather, he'll take it. Two years ago, he averaged 120 bushels per acre on the same number of planted acres.
Sholar plants behind peanut land, which is deep tilled and kept weed-free until he drills in the wheat around Nov. 20. His preplant fertility includes spreading Aspire, which is produced by Mosaic, he says, and contains boron. He applies Microessentail Zn, too, which contains nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc.
For the last few years, his go-to variety has been AGS 2024, which is an early to medium maturing variety with good test weight, he says. The variety was developed by the University of Georgia and is marketed by AGSouth Genetics. Sholar's wheat seed is treated with the fungicide CNI Magnum Cereals-F, which contains difenoconazole, tebuconazole, metalaxyl and thiabendazole, and the instecticide Resonate 600 ST, an imidacloprid.
He uses a seeding rate to establish 23 to 25 plants per row foot. The variety and seed treatment, he says, pushes strong vigor and germination and a good even stand, which is essential to start the process of capturing and securing the highest yield possible.
His additional fertility program includes injecting through his irrigation RW Griffin's 18-0-0-3 Nitrogen product three times: One 40-pound application followed by two 30-pound applications.
The in-season herbicide program includes, a three-quarter-ounce rate of Quelex plus 10-ounce rate of MCPA. Planting the wheat behind peanuts helps prevent ryegrass weeds from being a problem in the wheat.
For in-season disease management, he used a pre-flag leaf application of a tebuconazole and propiconazole with an added aphid control product. His main fungicide application was Miravis Ace for his 2019 crop.
Sholar gets a premium price for the seed wheat he grows from the local Plantation Seed Company, but he also markets wheat to local grain elevators. With current prices and including selling the straw, he still pens out a positive return on his wheat, he says. It's the yield and quality that makes that happen.
"You have to make the high yields to make any of it work, whether with corn, cotton or peanuts. The days of making 70 or 80 bushels (wheat) irrigated, well, that's fine, but you have to produce even higher yields with every acre, at least that's what we're trying to do," he says.
Sholar followed the wheat with cotton this year, which was planted June 3. The rotation will move to corn in 2021 then back to peanuts for 2022.
Adding the wheat in his crop rotation brings other benefits, too, he says.
"We're holding down our weeds, and the way we have pigweed now in the South, that is important. The land is not just sitting there through the winter, plus you establish a good residue to strip-till in your cotton," he said.
Georgia's seeded wheat acres have been on a decline since 2013. In 2019, according to USDA, Georgia growers planted 150,000 acres with an average statewide yield of 56 bushels per acre. They expect to plant 160,000 in 2020.