Grabbing the Low Hanging Fruit

Grabbing the Low Hanging Fruit

The Battle between more Beans or Wheat!

As many producers are gearing up for another busy spring and seed shipments have started to fill drive sheds, has anyone thought ahead five months to fall wheat seeding time? No why would you? There is a list with 50+ more important things to do before that even crosses anyone’s mind. However, the fact of the matter is, if you are a serious wheat producer this is an important management factor that cannot be overlooked.

The yield potential of winter wheat actually starts in the spring. Your fall wheat seeding date is dictated by the maturity of the crop ahead of wheat. It is pretty simple; the earlier wheat is seeded, the higher the yield potential it will have. Strategically planning crop rotations and determining which fields are destined for wheat and planting those acres with earlier maturing soybeans or other crops such as processing peas, edible beans etc. is imperative for success.

Now you might ask, “If you plant earlier maturing soybeans won’t you be giving up yield”? Yes, there might be a slight yield drag. However, does this yield drag result in less income when we include wheat in the rotation, NO!

In a year where spring planting is delayed, lots of attention is given to corn maturities, however, the soybeans should be given the same amount of attention, especially those acres destined for wheat. According to Horst Bohner, OMAFRA Soybean Specialist, “Planting date trials were conducted a few years ago. Depending on location, a 0.5-1.0 RM longer variety yielded about 2 bu/ac more (planted in a normal window May 6-May 20). A one week delay of harvest occurred in the fall since a range of maturities were used (0.5 – 1.0RM). Using longer maturing beans seem to work better when seeding early while later planted fields seem to show less of the benefit.” When planting in the early window (April 15-May 5) later season soybeans (0.5-0.9RM) show a 3.3bu/ac advantage compared to an adapted variety for the area. “Every 0.1 maturity group = 1 day to harvest (roughly 1.0 group less equal to 10 days sooner harvest). In the northern part of the province, 10 days of longer soybean growth can present up to 4 bu of yield gain. In the southern part of the province, 10 days of longer soybean growth can present up to 2 bu of yield gain”. Horst suggests choosing 1.0 group less and planting them ASAP, in order to gain three weeks sooner harvest, and still within the optimum window for wheat planting.

The economics of late planting matter!

10 days delay in planting past optimal 10bu/ac
2019 market price for wheat $6.20/bu
Net gain in wheat revenue (minimum) $62/ac
Yield gain from full season soybeans (1.0RM above adapted variety) 4bu/ac
2018 market price for RR soybeans $12.70/bu
Sacrificed RR soybean revenue (maximum) $50.8/ac

 

At the end of the day, it is hard to be a record breaking soybean grower and record breaking wheat grower on the same farm. It is more profitable to get the wheat in early and sacrifice a few bushels on soybeans rather that fighting to get the wheat in late October in less than ideal conditions. Reducing soybean maturities on the acres that are destined for wheat will ensure wheat stays in the rotation. With the inclusion of wheat, all the crops in the cropping system will benefit and there is no price that can be put on soil health.

Capturing the low hanging fruit are the first steps at becoming a serious wheat producer!

About the Author

Alex Zelem is a CCA-ON certified Agronomist with C&M Seeds. He farms in Huron County. Alex attended Ridgetown College and when he graduated attended Olds College in Alberta to gain a different perspective from Ontario. He has working in agriculture since 2013.