Getting the most from your 2022 wheat crop!

The Wheat Team connected with three Ontario CCA Agronomists to quiz them on ways to control some costs, maximize their straw, and get the most from their 2022 wheat crops.

Q1) Given a sharp rise in fertilizer prices for 2022, will your application recommendations change? Where would you look first to trim your wheat fertility spending dollars?

AS – Those able to secure some lower nitrogen fertilizer pricing from this past summer or fall by storing their own 28% will likely want to stay the course or push a little to increase yields and take advantage of strong commodity prices. Or, if the wheat crop looks to have not overwintered well, maybe kill off the crop entirely. Where selling straw has been an additional source of income for growers who don’t have livestock, they may think twice given the rise in fertilizer costs. Straw contains a high amount of potassium and leaving it in the field is a great way to keep some K in the soil.

RV Along side the fertilizer increase, wheat and other commodities have also risen in value. With a bit of simple math, we can calculate that it pays to treat the crop right. I would not change my recommendations because of the fertilizer price increase.

PO – I don’t think I will make any major changes to my fertility recommendations in terms of total nutrients. With the current pricing and marketing opportunities for wheat I don’t think producers can afford to short the crop and risk limiting yield. I do see a lot of value however in using 4R practices to get the most value and efficiency out of the nutrients applied. Splitting N applications and using Nitrogen stabilizers are two tools I will be recommending this spring.

Q2) With lower seeded acres in Ontario, straw supplies will be tight. In what ways can a grower impact (increase) straw volume with spring management?

PO Planning a well-timed single N & S application may increase plant height and overall straw yield. In these situations, especially when using high management tactics and high N & S rates, lodging can be an issue that will impact harvestability and yield of both grain and straw. Using a growth regulator can help prevent lodging while maintaining straw yield as any decrease in height is made up for in stem width and density.

AS – my immediate response would be to increase nitrogen rates early spring to help promote tillering. I think this spring many producers will consider splitting their nitrogen applications into 2 passes to help give the crop access to nutrients early on. With that, there has been research showing that fungicide use can contribute to increased straw volumes. Some livestock producers I work with have been very impressed with the straw cleanliness and volume coming from an early fungicide application, followed by a fusarium head blight product at T3.

RV – A great way to increase straw volume with spring management is an early N application (Zadoks stage 21-25). Whether the Nitrogen application is all up front or better yet split, the early feeding of nutrients will promote early growth and additional tillers. The more tillers/acre, the more straw/acre. Fungicides and herbicides will assist in a clean straw crop.

Q3) When we think back to the very strong crop of 2021 wheat, what lessons will you carry forward to enhance your wheat crops in 2022 and beyond. (Recognizing, of course, that we can not control the weather…)

RV – T1 fungicide is important. There were pockets of dry hot areas in Huron county mid May 2021 resulting in a perfect powdery mildew environment. On fields with a T1 fungicide pass, wheat plants were unaffected by the powdery mildew. On fields awaiting a T2 fungicide pass the damage had been done, it was too late. There was approximately a fifteen bushel increase in the wheat fields that had a T1 fungicide pass compared to the T2 pass. Waiting to apply a T2 is too long to leave the crop unprotected from diseases. We may not see that response every year, however to optimize our inputs and taking advantage of the increased commodity prices, it is an easy decision to target that T1 fungicide pass.

PO Plant growth regulators can be a valuable and effective part of the management system. It was the first year that we were able to utilize and experiment with these products in a significant way and we were pleased with the results. Growers were able to secure some extra yield by spoon feeding the crop and pushing N rates all while keeping lodging to a minimum.

AS – First, do not discount the value of phosphorous at planting. Second, start planning your 2023 wheat crop now. There has been a lot of research done to show the value of optimum planting dates for wheat, but often next year’s wheat crop gets discussed only when the soybean field is harvested. Instead, I’d encourage growers to start thinking about their future wheat crops now, consider planting a shorter-day soybean variety to ensure your wheat crop gets planted in a timely manner.

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