So, what exactly does it take to produce 100-bushel wheat in North Carolina?
A great way to find out is to look at the production practices of the wheat farmers who entered the North Carolina yield contest with winning entries of more than 100 bushels per acre.
In 2018, nine farmer entries made it into the 100-bushel club. Yields averaged from 102.9 bushels per acre to 121.9 bushels per acres with 100-bushel winners in all regions of the state.
It turns out that just about all the wheat varieties North Carolina wheat farmers plant can produce 100 bushels per acre. Production practices are the key to achieving stellar yields.
“From every region of North Carolina, there are great genetics out there for producing high-yielding wheat and they are being showcased in our variety tests,” says North Carolina State University Extension small grains specialist Dr. Angela Post.
Post says timely nitrogen applications and a fungicide seed treatment are musts. Of the nine farmers that achieved 100 bushel yields in the contest, 100 percent used nitrogen at planting and 100 percent used a fungicide seed treatment.
The top yielders applied anywhere from 18 to 70 pounds of nitrogen at planting with an average of 43 pounds per acre applied at planting. Total in-season nitrogen applications of the nine winning entries went all the way up to 185 units with the average of the nine winners totaling 147 units per acre. Post said there was no difference seen between a single application or splitting.
“If you want to push your yields. If you know you’re going to harvest your crop, if you want to make those few extra bushels, it’s very important to have that preplant nitrogen,” Post said at an Extension grains meeting at the Duplin County Center in Kenansville.
Moreover, Post says the use of a fungicide seed treatment is vital for achieving 100 bushels per acre. All the 100-bushel winners in 2018 used a fungicide seed treatment.
“Fungicide seed treatments are very cheap insurance for your crop. Most of your seed dealers are willing to put the seed treatments on for you,” Post says.
In addition, 55 percent of the 100-bushel winners in 2018 used both a fungicide seed treatment and an insecticide seed treatment. Post says she doesn’t necessarily recommend an insecticide seed treatment.
“Some of the companies are already going to have it in the package and you don’t have a choice about it. But if you have a choice, the only place I recommend an insecticide seed treatment is if you’re planting very early and have a Hessian fly susceptible variety,” Post says.
In addition, 100 percent used at least one fungicide application and at least one herbicide application while 92 percent used at least one insecticide application.
Of the 100-bushel winners, 55 percent were no-till and 45 percent were conventional-tillage. “That’s good news, because it doesn’t matter which way you go with tillage, you can make the 100-bushel mark.
However, a key to top wheat yields is drilled instead of broadcast seeding. Post noted that 88 percent of the 100-bushel winners planted with a drill on 7-inch or 7.5-inch rows compared to 12 percent who broadcast seeded.
Seeding rates for the nine entries that made it into the 100-bushel club ranged from 1.5 million seeds per acre to almost two million seeds per acre with an average rate of 1.72 million seeds. Planting dates ranged from Oct. 18, 2017 to Nov. 2, 2017.
Post acknowledges that not all wheat farmers can produce 100-bushel wheat due to soil and environmental conditions, but she says they can reach 80 bushels per acre when the right production practices are used.