Here are some cultural, and planting decisions to consider when planting wheat. I compiled some of the notes taken at our Area Wheat Update with UGA Extension Agronomist Dr. Dewey Lee:
- Deep tillage – Wheat reponds well to deep tillage because it has a low tolerance for low oxygen. Prepare soils with a V-ripper, chisel plow, paraplow or subsoiler. Simple disking is not as effective as deep tillage but is preferred over no-tilling.
- Plant high yielding, pest resistant varieties – Refer to my post on 2014 Grain Varieties. Spread risks by planting at least 3 varieties in a field.
- Seeding rate – In a drill, plant 22 to 25 seeds/row foot (7.5. inch drill width). This is equivalent to 30-35 seeds per square foot. Wheat emerges best when planted 1 to 1.5 inches depth. Yields from drilling wheat tend to be 7-8% higher than broadcast. If broadcasting wheat, calibrate equipment to plant 40 seeds / square foot.
- Planting dates – Recommended planting dates for GA are 7 days prior to and after average first frost day for your farm. Varieties with long vernalization requirements should be planted in the first 7 days before the first frost. Real early varieties with short nervalization – such as Fleming – need to be planted in the vary last days of the recommended window. These varieties will suffer winter injury if planted too early since they would enter jointing phase before the time that sub-freezing temp do not occur.
- Scout fields for early insect infestations -Hessian fly and aphids are the 2 insects generally causing problems in the Fall. Start scouting for these 25-30 days after planting – just before topdressing. Insects can also be controlled by using resistant varities or seed treatments.
- Weed control – Ryegrass and broadleaf weeds need to be controlled early. Ryegrass needs to be controlled when the plant is between the 2-lear and 2-tiller stage. Once we past Christmas, it is too late to effectively control most weeds. Scout wheat 25-30 days after emergence . Ryegrass has genetic potential to form resistance. We must rotate herbicides. Below is a list of herbicide classes I put in a newsletter last season.It is important that each field is treated only once every two years with the respected chemistry. For instance, if we use Axial this year, we do not spray Axial or Hoelon on that piece of ground next year at all. The same applies to Powerflex and Osprey. If we do not rotate, we will lose the chemistry.
- Soil test – Wheat prefers soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Make sure potassium and phosphorus are medium to medium-high range. Nitrogen is the first nutrient to be unavailable to wheat. In a heavy soil, we need 20-30 lb/N. In a light soil, we need 30-40 lbs of N. If fertilizing for wheat only, apply all P and K in the fall during seed bed prep. Fall tillers make the largest and most productive heads.