Boots on the ground = Status Report!

Where do we go from here?

The following is a guest article graciously provided by Joanna Follings, Ontario Cereals Specialist, OMAFRA.

With a few months since winter wheat seeding under our belt, now is a good time to reflect on how things are progressing and where we may want to go from here with our winter wheat management. For the most part, many experienced great weather in September and October to allow for timely soybean and edible bean harvest. This in turn provided an opportunity for many to get their winter cereals seeded within their optimum planting window and into ideal conditions. However, some did have to push seeding into late October due to persistent wet conditions through mid-October. Thankfully a window of great weather at the end of the month provided a chance to seed any remaining acres into good soil conditions. It is estimated that over 1 million acres of winter wheat were seeded in Ontario this fall. 

Overall, winter wheat fields are progressing quite nicely. However, there have been reports of fields looking yellow, red or purple regardless of planting date and stage of the crop (Figure 1). This colour change is a result of the top growth photosynthesizing and making energy during those beautiful warm days while the roots were unable to keep up. This is being observed where there has been heavy compaction, no starter fertilizer used, heavy soybean residue and where there are internal drainage issues. The impact on yield is expected to be minimal.

red wheat seeds
Figure 1: A common site in 2020, winter wheat fields with red, yellow or purple looking plants due to temperature fluctuations and restricted root growth.

Fields planted in mid to late September have accumulated anywhere from 600-700 Growing Degree Days (GDDs) so they are well tillered with good root systems going into winter (Figure 2). Having a well developed root system will help improve the chances of survival through the winter and early spring months. Fields that were planted in mid to late October have accumulated about 200-300 GDDs depending on the location in the province so these fields have not yet tillered and are likely looking at a lower yield potential. This is important to note because this will greatly influence your spring management decisions. Those fields that were seeded early may not need an ultra early nitrogen application in the spring. However, those fields that were seeded late this fall may need to be targeted for those early nitrogen applications at green up to help promote tillering. Therefore, once the weather begins to warm up and growth resumes be sure to get out and make those stand assessments!

winter wheat
Figure 2: Winter wheat field seeded on September 16th with 5-6 tillers and a well developed root system.

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