Counting Tillers

Counting Tillers and assessing stands in a wheat crop.

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 55 and 65 good heads per square foot.  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.

So how do determine this number?  You have to know how to count tillers and determine the quantity of stems per plant. 

The above image shows two different plants with different tiller counts.  To determine tiller count in your wheat stand, dig up some representative plants.  Count the number of the stems in each plant.  The picture above should show what a tiller is.
Make sure that you have pulled apart individual plants and don’t have two plants in your hands.  
After you have counted your tillers on each plant, take an average of all the plants selected.

This can be helpful in determining your nitrogen management plan in the spring.

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