Sidedressing Considerations

Our wheat is in the tillering stage, and now is time to sidedress. Wheat needs between 100 and 130 lbs of N in a growing season. We do not put all N out in the fall because we do not want plants to grow too much which will injury head during cold weather. The demand for N is low during the fall but increased just before stem elongation. We wait until January and February to put out most of our N before stem elongation. We put out recommended N at planting then finish our total N during side dressing. We count tillers and determine if we sidedress one or two times.

These tillers are like multiple stems that will each have a head. More tillers equals give us more grain heads which means more kernels and higher yield. Below is a picture of the tillers on this plant.


Wheat tillers


If wheat is drilled (usually 7.5 inch rows) then 19 feet of the row would equal a square foot. This field was broadcast, so I just checked random square foot spots. I count all tillers on the plants within that square foot. If we do not have 100 tillers per square foot, then we split side dress applications to the last week of January and the next application the second week of February.  If we have 100 or so tillers per square foot and good growth and don’t see much yellowing of the older foliage, we can wait until the 2nd week of February to put out all of our sidedress fertilizer.

Below is a picture of nitrogen deficient leaves. Since N is mobile in the plant, the lower leaves will turn yellow first. N and K are mobile in the soil also and will leach with rains.

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Nitrogen deficient leaves of wheat


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