Although C&M Seeds remains the genetic provider of wheat seed varieties in Ontario, we frequently get asked specific questions about crop management beyond the seed selection. One of the questions we get most often is “How do I get strong yields AND high protein in my Hard Red Winter wheat?” Four years ago C&M Seeds teamed up with YARA and asked Black Creek Research to dig deeper for solutions. We evaluated eleven different combinations of Nitrogen and Sulphur to see how rates and timing impact the yield and protein. We had a target of 160N and 19S across the trials. Over the course of the past four crop years, we have formed a list of DO’s (and some “DON’T’s”…).
DO A SPLIT APPLICATION. In every year, the top combination of yield and protein was created with an approach of slip application. There are times when applying the entire fertilizer package at green-up will give a very satisfying yield, but the protein level is usually disappointing.
DO CONSIDER MAKING THE SECOND PASS JUST PRIOR TO FLAG LEAF. In every year, the strongest protein levels were created when the second pass was applied just prior to the flag leaf unrolling. (Roughly during the last week of May.) This can be a bit unnerving. My favourite method for safe and effective results is to use a product like AMIDAS through a calibrated high clearance spreader. The dry product will have little or no risk to injure the crop and is not sensitive to sunlight or canopy dampness. UAN+ATS liquid through streamers can be used effectively, but risk of crop injury is higher. Be sure to apply on a cool cloudy day at low pressure when the crop canopy is dry. (DON’T injure the flag leaf as the yield penalty can be large). The dry conditions in 2020 did remind us that we require a bit of rain to get these nutrients in soil solution for the wheat to access to finish building yield.
DO TARGET A 7:1 N:S RATIO IN BOTH PASSES. Nitrogen and Sulpher are both key ingredients in creation of protein in the grain. They work together in this process. The AMIDAS is also very complimentary this way because each granule is homogeneous at this ratio and quickly soluble.
We have evaluated a few foliar fertilizer products also that were tank mixed with the T3 fungicide spray at flowering. Although it would convenient to combine the fertilizer with the planned fungicide application, we have not found consistent results. The goal is to boost the protein, but it is too difficult to get the level of nutrients needed in to the plant though a foliar spray.
Of course, you will notice no mention of Phosphorous and Potassium here. They are vital to all wheat crops also. Be sure to get your starter Phos in the row with the seed, and strive to keep your K soil test levels sufficient to support general crop health and improved straw strength.
Our Hard Red Winter seed varieties like PRO81 and Adrianus are bringing improved yield and protein ability to the class. Pair these genetics with the fertilizer strategy described above for a wheat crop to be proud of!
For a copy of the research summary, contact us, or please visit: