Is your 2018 wheat crop tucked in bed for winter?

Is your 2018 wheat crop tucked in bed for winter?

There is no doubt that this fall has proven to be challenging for many. Some areas are close if not done harvesting corn and soybeans while others are battling Mother Nature to put harvest 2017 in the books. Looking back at fall wheat planting, there was two planting date ranges. The wheat planted late September and the first week of October emerged in less than a week and never looked back, it looks fantastic! The second planting window was around October 18-25 +/- a couple days depending on where you are. The later planted wheat took about 3 weeks to emerge and some still is not up due to saturated fields. Having two different wheat planting periods poses some opportunities as well as some challenges.

If you are not busy harvesting corn and it is too wet to do fall tillage, now is a good time to walk the wheat fields. The first thing I like to look for while scouting wheat in the fall is emergence.

–        Did I do a good job spreading residue to reduce hair-pinning and yellow streaking across the field?

–        Were all the seeds planted at a consistent depth?

–        Did I get consistent seed flow?

–        What percentage of the seeds I planted actually germinated and emerged?

The second thing I like to look at is staging. Even though you will make N+S management decisions from spring staging, it is a good practice to do a stand assessment in the fall to get an idea how your N+S program will look next spring. When you know your fall emergence, you can then know what your overwintering loss is in the spring. Knowing these numbers can help make future decisions on seeding rates.

Both Photos taken November 21st

Planted Oct 2 (5 days to emerge) Avg 21 plants/ft of row GS 21 (main shoot + 1 tiller)
Planted Oct 21 (3 weeks to emerge) Avg 28 plants/ft of row GS 11 (first leaf unfolded)

Two common terms used by the Wheat Team for Nitrogen and Sulphur management are “Kickstart’ and “Yield Maker”. The Kickstart application gets the young plants off to a good start right out of the gate in the spring. The sulphur should be applied at this time. The second application is what supports the plants demand nutrients during head formation and grain fill; we call this the “Yield Maker”.  This stage is typically around zadok’s growth stage 31-32.  Nodes are detectable, and stem elongation occurs at this point, which means we are past the point of creating more tillers.

For more information on Kickstart and Yield Maker look back at the March 23, 2017 edition of Wheat News Plus.
Soft Red Fertility Requirements – Kickstart & Yieldmaker.

When looking ahead to 2018, how are we going to manage these two drastically different wheat crops? For the October 2nd planted wheat I would foresee a recommendation of a 40/60 split; 40% of total N at Kickstart and 60% of total N at Yield Maker. This will allow us to maintain fertility while limiting excessive growth thus maximizing yield potential and reducing lodging risk.

For the October 21st planting date I would recommend the exact opposite, 60/40 split. Due to limited plant growth from late planting, splitting 60/40 will encourage early plant growth and vigor to provide the highest yield potential.

While you begin your nitrogen management strategy, make sure sulphur is part of your plan. With increasing N rates and yield potential, we need to ensure the plants have an adequate amount of sulphur. Remember, one of the roles sulphur plays is increasing the nitrogen use efficiency for the plants.

The third thing I like to look for while fall scouting is weeds. If you have applied a fall weed control product, this is a great time to evaluate its efficacy on those pesky weeds. If no products were applied Pre-emerge or Post, this is a great time to start looking to starting building the weed management plan.

Post applied product worked great on the dandelions, chickweed, and Canada fleabane in this field allowing for a clean start in 2018.

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.