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Update from the Field: Wonderful Winter Wheat Weather?

Posted by Dave Dyson, Agronomist on October 23, 2018

This post may reference products and/or services only available to our Retail Farm Center customers. For more information contact your Territory Manager at The Andersons.

Winter wheat can be a hard crop to grow successfully. As crops start coming off, we need to put planting our wheat seed as priority.  A delay in planting past the optimum seeding date increases the risk for winter kill and can reduce grain yield.  This is because the crowns will not be as well developed, and the plant will have had less opportunity to store nutrients.  There is no magic date to plant wheat in the fall; the plants just need to develop two to three tillers before dormancy, to survive the winter.  It takes about five days for the wheat seedling to emerge, and you can figure one week for every tiller to develop.  Planting wheat too early can be just as detrimental to winter survival as planting too late.  Early planting can create a green bridge, or overlap, between hosts such as volunteer wheat and the emerging winter wheat.  This allows many important winter wheat pests to spread to the new winter wheat.

The talk around the coffee shop is to plant wheat behind corn, since it is getting late and the corn seems to be coming off before the beans this year.  I would highly discourage this decision, as both crops are from the grass family and will be affected by some of the same pests and diseases.  One such disease, and by far the one of greatest concern, is head scab, caused by Fusarium graminearum.  This same fungus causes Gibberella ear rot in corn.  Unfortunately, wheat planted into corn stubble is more likely to have head scab and vomitoxin problems next year, especially if late spring, early summer conditions are wet and humid.  The high levels of Gibberella ear rot we are seeing in some corn fields this year will produce lots of spores next spring, increasing the risk of head scab if conditions become wet and humid during wheat flowering.  

We need to plan for success. You should drill 1.5-1.7 million seeds per acre, which will ensure a desirable emerged plant population of 1.3-1.5 million plants per acre.  Making sure you maintain adequate fertility is an important part of staving off winter kill.  Trying to pull soil tests and fertilizing according to the test is difficult in a compressed fall planting like wheat, but we still have to feed over a million little seedlings.  If your drill is set up with starter attachments, this is a perfect time to apply 10-12 gal/ac of The Andersons’ PureGrade® 6-24-6 Diamond Liquid Fertilizer. This will ensure a quick start and pop-up out of the ground.  I also like to broadcast dry fertilizer at planting. My recommendation is 100lb/ac of AMS, 100lb/ac of potash, and 100lb/ac of MAP.

In conclusion, try to plant your wheat after a legume crop, such as soybeans or dry beans.  This will allow you to take advantage of the nitrogen credit from the previous crop and may break the disease cycle.  Fertilize for success. Use a high-quality starter for a quick pop-up, and broadcast a well-balanced dry fertilizer blend to sustain the crop through winter and into next year.



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David Dyson

Dave Dyson is a regional agronomist for The Andersons’ Farm Centers which are located throughout Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. He is an Indiana native and grew up on a dairy farm in Miami County. A graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Crop & Soil Science, Dave has a deep knowledge of various agronomic topics and is committed to helping growers improve their crops. If you have any questions, Dave can be reached at

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