Time to Check your Stands

Time to Check your Stands

We are entering another year with great expectations for the winter wheat crop in Ontario – mostly due to another early planting opportunity in Fall 2016.  But, There is one concern that has been in the minds of agronomists and growers alike – will better stands lead to lodging? 2016 was a similar set up and Ontario did not have much lodged wheat, even with record yields.  But most of the reason for that was the lack of rainfall that much of the province had at key periods through the season, creating a very short stem.  Had 2016 provided more moisture, we most likely would have had many lodged fields, creating headaches and grading issues.

NOT ALL WHEAT FIELDS ARE THE SAME

Some fields will be “greener” than others, making people wonder if their field is alive and well.   With warmer temperatures in February, there seems to be many concerned about this.  In most cases, the wheat will be fine, and just has not been “triggered” to grow yet.  But if you are worried, take a shovel out and dig up a few plants, place them inside your home and place them in a pail with dirt.  After 3 days, you should see new, white roots starting to form.  This will indicate if your wheat is alive.

SCOUT YOUR FIELDS TO DETERMINE THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE

It is always best to view the crop from a mathematical standpoint to determine what kind of yield potential and lodging risk you have.  A strong stand of wheat, according to many industry specialists, will have between 450 and 600 good heads per square yard.  Having a stand that is over that number quite often leads to a lodged crop of wheat – and under, we need to encourage tillering to reach maximum yield potential.  Most often wheat lodges because stand  is too thick, and stems are too thin – not too tall.

 

Tim Meulensteen, one of our Agronomists at C&M Seeds, has created a simple stand count chart that could assist in determining how many heads per square yard your field has.  The chart relates emerged plant population that exists against stems and potential for heads on each plant.  Do a plant count in the spring to determine average plants per foot of row – and examine the plants you are counting to identify the number of tillers that may develop a head. Compare that number to the chart and if the number falls between 450 and 600 good heads per square yard, the crop can be maximized and lodging risk will be lowered.

Stand Count Evaluation Chart

Use your tiller or stem count and plants per foot of row to identify if you are at risk of lodging. Above the green needs tiller encouragement, below the green is at lodging risk.

SPLIT APPLICATIONS OF FERTILIZER LOWER LODGING RISK

Knowing the number of good heads expected in your crop will also assist in making wise fertility decisions.  Split applications of fertilizer are always preferable to a single application because there is less environmental risk and an anticipated economic boost.  The goal of a split application of fertilizer is efficient use of the product – the wheat plant only uses around 40% of its total nitrogen requirements previous to zadok’s growth stage 31 (stem elongation).  We should all be reminded of the 4R’s – Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place.

Using Tim’s stand count chart, growers can determine how to split a fertilizer application in order to reduce the chance of lodging later.

If you have a number just under 450 in the spring, you could add more fertilizer in your first application to encourage and maximize tillers .

If the number is greater than 600, you want to maintain nutrition but do not over-stimulate.

Lodging can be avoided now, do yourself a favour and check your wheat to lower stress in the harvest period.   If you would like to discuss this further, reach out to one of our Agronomist, or myself.  We want your wheat to be the best it can be!

Tim Meulensteen – 519-492-0044
Alex Zelem – 519-860-0794
Rob McLaughlin – 519-492-0044

About the Author

Rob has been involved with C&M Seeds since 1999, working in many roles throughout the organization. He now is the Sales and Marketing Manager and a self proclaimed "wheat geek".