Planning your Fertility Approach for Hard Red Winter Wheat.

Planning your Fertility Approach for Hard Red Winter Wheat.

KickStart > Yield Maker > Protien Push

Your Hard Red Winter Wheat crop has two jobs to do.  Make grain kernels (= YIELD), and produce adequate Protein levels (= GRADE).  These two jobs need to be accomplished separately.  For HRWW this process has led most producers to executing a three-part fertility program on HRWW.  Majority of HRWW acres in the province within a cash crop rotation should plan to receive 150N in total, as an average.  Amounts higher than 150 have certainly produced impressive yield results in past.  And, adjustments can successfully be made to lower the rates when to consider application methods efficiency or residual soil nitrogen.

“Kickstart” – not unlike any other wheat crop, the Kickstart application is intended to wake up the wheat and feed that young plant.  In the early part of the spring growing season, soils are cooler and nutrients are slower to mineralize for plants to access.  It makes sense to apply plant nutrients once the snow is gone and the wheat greens-up.  Application can be made on crusted soil during a frosty morning, or onto dry ground at first chance.  (roughly 40% of your intended Nitrogen should be applied in this pass, also refer to Sulpher note below.)

“Yield Maker” – at Zadok’s 32, second node of the plant pushes up the stem above the soil surface, the plant will start into rapid growth.  The internode length has been determined and the grain head is forming.  The crop will be ready to receive the next portion of fertilizer.   The nutrients will be used in supply the energy required to feed the high demands of above ground growth and head formation.  (apply the next 40% of your intended Nitrogen in this pass).

“Protein Push” – there are basically four common ways to do this job… (the final 20% of Nitrogen needs)

  • Add an extra 30N in a protected for to your “Yield Maker” application, you can save to cost of an extra application, but it is possible that the weather will allow the N to release too soon/late.
  • 30N as UAN liquid fertilizer application with streamer nozzles just prior to the flag leaf emerging, try to apply on a cloudy day, perhaps consider diluting 1:1 with water.
  • Include addition of a safe form of Liquified Low Buriate Urea at 2gal per acre with T3 fungicide application. This will save a cost of application pass, but testing is still being done to confirm if any yield penalties could occur.
  • Apply 30N via hardened granular nitrogen fertilizer applied with a calibrated high-clearance spinner unit. Apply at full flag leaf stage.  This will follow same tracks as sprayer.  The granular product should provide the least risk of burn to the flag leaf.  (Amidas looks to be a good product to suit this application.)

Sulpher is another essential component in wheat fertility program.  As a general statement, it has been found that wheat requirements for S are 1:10 of Nitrogen.  The choice of form and application method will vary depending on equipment and product preference.  In a perfect world, S could be applied in all three of the application passes.  In most cases, the S will be applied with the Kickstart pass.  We have seen some anecdotal reports that S is important in creation of Protein in HRW too.  We are hoping to see more research with S include in the Protein Push applications in future.

There has not been mention of Potassium or Phosphorous in the approach, but they certainly can not be forgotten.  Be sure to do soil test and ensure proper crop removal requirements are met.

This staggered nutrient application plan will allow to best follow the 4R nutrient approach and provide best probability of high yields an strong protein.

About the Author

Tim Meulensteen is a CCA-ON certified Agronomist with C&M Seeds. He farms with his family in Perth County. Tim attended the University of Guelph and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce in Agriculture. He has been working in the Ontario agriculture industry since 2004.