“What is my Wheat Doing?”

“What is my Wheat Doing?”

Don’t Panic, it will be Okay!

2018 has proven to be difficult for many areas of the province. Considering the challenges Ontario producers have faced this fall, Ontario wheat acres are impressive, 868,000 acres! Kudos to everyone for getting as much wheat planted as possible despite the hand Mother Nature has dealt this fall. The way crops were progressing throughout the season, Ontario was setup for 1 million acres! The breakdown by class is 89% SRW, 7% HRW, 4% SWW and <1% organic.

Once again, wheat planting was split into two planting date ranges; September 10-22 (+/- a couple days) and October 10-26 (+/- a couple days). The early planting date range consisted of 5-8% of total acres planted. During the second planting date range some wheat went into fantastic conditions and some conditions were marginal at best!

Sept 20th Planting Date
Oct 12th Planting Date

As some areas are now experiencing measurable snow accumulation, The Wheat Team has been getting lots of questions such as “My wheat has been in the ground for four weeks and is not up yet. Is it going to make it?” This is creates an interesting train of thought, “What is my wheat doing?” If you planted wheat three or four weeks ago and it is not out of the ground yet, the first thing to look for is signs of germination. If the radical (the first part of the seedling to emerge) has emerged and if you cut the seed open and it is white inside, more than likely it will be fine. However, if the soil is extremely saturated and the seed appears to be brown and mushy, chances are it is done. Don’t be alarmed if your wheat is not out of the ground yet; look at the weather we have been getting in the last three to four weeks. Many areas have received cool wet conditions and even snow for that matter resulting in low heat unit accumulation for seedling development. This is the exact reason why the wheat planted in the “early window” was up in a week compared to the later planted wheat which has taken three, four and almost five weeks in some situations. Wheat will continue to grow when soil temperatures are above 0°C. The blanket of snow some fields now have will actually help keep the ground warmer, allowing the wheat to continue its growth. Once soil temperatures drop below 0°C, the vernalization process can begin. For those who do not know, winter wheat requires vernalization to complete its life cycle; it is the process that enables the crop to switch from a vegetative to reproductive state.

Remember, wheat hates wet feet (water logged soils) and ice build up. I realize this is tough to manage in some fields, as long as the residue was spread well; the drill did a good job planting at proper depth with no hair-pinning, the seeding rate was kept up to account for lack of tillering as the planting window was pushed later, some form of starter P was used and good quality seed with a properly applied seed treatment was put in the ground; your 2019 crop is set up for great potential.

In the event where you know the wheat is dead and not coming back and you would like to keep the field but want to fix the bad spots, it is possible. If there is a morning where there is enough frost to carry the equipment but not too much where you cannot get the drill in the ground at proper depth, this can be an opportunity to re-seed.

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 been working in agriculture since 2013.