Six Fall Factors for Focus
Once again, we are heading into fall planting with a strong market price for the 2021 wheat crop. Some edible beans are starting to harvest in parts of the province and some soybean fields are not far behind. “If” Mother Nature cooperates, we could see a number of September planted wheat acres. As with all crops, proper planting is a crucial step to creating the highest possible yields. Please review these focus areas to ensure your wheat crop gets the “Serious Start” that it needs.
1. Residue Management
It looks like Ontario is shaping up to have a strong soybean crop this year. There are some very tall soybeans across the countryside and the combine residue management systems need to be in top notch shape to properly cut and distribute residue evenly behind the back of the combine. Ensure the residue is being spread the entire width of the header. Proper spreading of previous crop residue is extremely important to allow for uniform seed placement, emergence and heading next spring.
2. Equipment properly tuned and calibrated
Ensuring equipment is well maintained and calibrated correctly is imperative for high management crop production. When targeting a specific seeding rate based on calendar date and seed size, it is important that the drill is seeding at the intended rate. You do not want the drill seeding too much or too little. Also, make sure disc openers are sharp and measure no less than the manufactures specifications for proper no-till operations. Target a depth of 1.0 to 1.5”. A worn-out disc opener will not penetrate hard soil or cut residue properly. This will create issues with seed placement and residue “hair-pinning”. If you are planting on the later end this fall, strongly consider planting on the deeper side.
3. Seed Placed Phosphorous
Seed placed phosphorous has proven to be an integral part to high management wheat production year after year. Having phosphorous in the row is the most efficient use of the nutrient. The wheat crop has the highest demand for phosphorous in the first 30 days of growth. Seed place phosphorous allows for early plant vigor and greater winter survivability. Yield response to seed placed phosphorous is anywhere from 5-20bu/ac. Not all seed drills are equipped with a separate compartment for dry fertilizer or with liquid tanks. A cost-effective way to get phosphorous with the seed is mixing MAP and wheat seed together. For instance, 50lbs/ac MAP and 125lbs/ac of seed would get seeded at 175lbs/ac in the same compartment. Be careful not to go with too high of a rate of MAP as some drills are limited as to how much product they can put out.
4. Planting Date
Year in and year out, the yield gain from Early Planted Wheat proves to be great. September planting should be the goal for many growers. Earlier planting allows the plants to get a head start allowing for greater nutrient uptake and sunlight interception. The early planted wheat will always have a much better root system that is robust and ready to handle the challenges of winter weather. Also, the plant vigor boost that comes from proper seed treatment and seed placed fertilizer become exponentially greater as we trend to the cooler part of the fall.
5. Proper Seed Source
Using a certified seed source allows for the greatest chance of success. Certified seed comes free of weeds and disease. It has professionally applied seed treatments helping to ensure every seed is viable. Certified seed also allows for seeding rates to be set precisely, because there is a known number of seed per pound. Allowing growers to use the latest genetics, certified seed will help maximize yield potential. With certified seed, growers are buying guaranteed performance, and investing in the system that generates genetic advancement.
6. Seeding Rates
Seeding rate is one factor that gets overlooked by many producers. Some growers use the “standard” 150lbs/ac because that is what they have always done. Although more is perceived to be better, more can negatively impact yield as lodging risk increases. Matching seeding rates to calendar date and planting conditions is step one. Growers should aim for 1.6M seeds/ac at the optimum date for their region. Current version of Optimum Planting Date map is included below. (Also, more info in OMAF Pub 811 Agronomy Guide). If planting before the optimum date, reduce rates by 100,000 seeds/ac/week. If planting past the optimum planting date, increase by 100,000 seeds/ac/week. With new varieties on the marketplace, some offer small seed size which allows for seed savings because you will only need 120lbs/ac or less to get the desired final stand.
As an example, if a grower near London had the chance to plant on Sept 16, the target population would be 1.4mil. If his seed tag indicated a seed size of 11,500 seeds per pound, and 97% germination, this would lead to a seeding rate of 125.5 lbs/ac.
(Calculation: 1,400,000 / 11,500 / 0.97 = 125.5)
Or if the same grower was not able to plant this seed until Oct 14, his new target would be 1.8mil, and seeding rate would be increased to 161.4 lbs/ac.
(Calculation: 1,800,000 / 11,500 / 0.97 = 161.4)