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Rain delays early wheat seeding in Oklahoma

Shelley E. Huguley swfp-shelley-huguley-emerging-wheat-field.jpg
Small grains specialist emphasizes the importance of wheat variety selection.

Southwest wheat producers are praying for rain so they can begin to plant forage and dual-purpose wheat by the optimum planting date.

They have a few more weeks for grain-only seeding.

With markets offering opportunities for good returns, producers hope to get the crop off to a good start. Still, they have a few issues to deal with, says Oklahoma State University Small Grains Extension Specialist Amanda De Oliveira Silva.

Matching varieties with purpose and area of adaptation is an essential first consideration, De Oliveira Silva says. “Variety selection makes a significant difference depending on the production system. With dual-purpose, producers are looking at forage yield.”

But that’s not the only factor. “Also important is the variety’s ability to recover from grazing stress and produce good yields. In our variety trials, we see varieties that will produce forage but not recover for grain.”

Look for tolerance

Those early-planted varieties should also include tolerance or resistance to several diseases, pests, and pest-transmitted diseases. She says Hessian fly can be a problem in early-planted wheat. Also, the wheat curl mite can transmit virus diseases such as the wheat streak mosaic virus. “Several varieties are resistant to Hessian fly and some to the wheat curl mite and/or wheat streak mosaic virus,” De Oliveira Silva says.

See, Variety, early pest management crucial for Texas wheat

Controlling volunteer wheat can also help reduce the risks of infestations from those pests and diseases.

She adds that earlier planting also risks problems from high-temperature germination sensitivity of varieties. Variety also plays a role on the number of grazing days, she says. “In our trials, we’ve seen varietal differences of three weeks to first hollow stem in the same fields. The earlier the plant gets to the first hollow stem stage, the less grazing days they have.

“Also, consider drought and low pH tolerance.”

Grain yield

De Oliveira Silva says selecting varieties for grain production concentrates on yield, quality, adaptation, and disease resistance.

She recommends producers select varieties to match field conditions and histories. “When forage is not an issue, producers look at yield, quality, and overall performance across years (when information is available).” Wheat production is vulnerable to spring disease pressure — leaf rust, stripe rust, powdery mildew, Tan Spot, and Septoria.

“Look for varieties with resistance to the diseases that are more most occurring in your region,” she says. She also notes that wheat for grain in the Oklahoma Panhandle could be at risk for wheat streak mosaic virus. “It’s important to know which diseases are prominent in the region and select varieties accordingly.”

Variety selection may reduce costs. “Some years, resistant varieties save money with fewer fungicide applications,” De Oliveira Silva says.

Grazing only

Some producers select a wheat variety for grazing only. “They want a variety with excellent forage yield potential, and we have some good options for fall forage. Some new beardless varieties are especially good for graze-out and dual-purpose planting,” she says.

De Oliveira Silva recommends producers plant dual-purpose wheat in mid-September. “That’s the optimum window, but it’s too dry. This timing represents a trade-off with maximum forage production and minimal yield loss. The later we plant, the more we reduce forage production.

“It’s dry now and we are not able to plant. This could be a year with low forage production if it doesn’t rain soon. “For grain production only, we have about three to four weeks after the dual-purpose window; mid-to-late October is optimum planting date for grain,” De Oliveira Silva says.

For more information on Oklahoma wheat varieties, visit .

Other concerns

As producers prepare to plant, there are other considerations. “Early on, producers will need to watch for fall armyworm infestations. We’ve had a lot of reports this summer; they have been bad. As soon as producers finish planting, they should look for window-pane symptoms on the leaves. Armyworms can destroy a crop quickly.”

Weather is the top concern for now. “We need rain,” she says.  “If we can’t plant soon, we will start seeing forage prospects decrease.”

She cautions producers to control for volunteer wheat and grass weeds that could potentially harbor Hessian fly, wheat curl mite and aphids.  “Volunteer wheat (and grassy weeds) can provide a greenbridge even in fallow fields. If we don’t control them in a fallow field, curl mites can move into other fields.” She also recommends waiting two weeks after the volunteer wheat and grasses are killed. “They need to be brown dead for two weeks before planting. Give it enough time that mites don’t have a place to stay.”

Watch costs

De Oliveira Silva says producers currently have a good market outlook but should still be cautious about spending.

Oklahoma Extension Economist Kim Anderson recommends caution, too. “Wheat may be forward contracted for 2022 harvest delivery in Medford, Oklahoma, for about $7 and in Perryton, Texas, for $6.80,” he says (September 17). “The 10-year average harvest delivery price in both Medford and Perryton is near $5.25.

“Higher prices may result in increased fertilizer and chemical use,” he adds. “The increased use will be limited by higher input costs.”

“Fertilizer cost is high,” De Oliveira Silva says, “so rely on soil samples; know what’s in the ground. Also, know your varieties so you can budget for disease control on typical problems for your area.”

She says seed treatments have shown an advantage with wheat establishment and preventing early season diseases.

“Last spring, we saw a lot of stripe rust, and fungicide applications helped.  It made a huge difference in our trials. A lot depends on varieties and susceptibility. With resistant varieties to the most prominent disease in the field, you might not need a fungicide. “Fungicide application is not a blanket recommendation,” she says, “so it’s important to know the variety, the risk and pressure of disease.”





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