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It's still not too late to topdress wheat

By Richard C. Snell
Barton County Extension Agent, agriculture
Kansas

What a difference a year makes! We planted wheat in the fall of 2007 in conditions so dry that much of it west of Great Bend did not emerge until after the December 2007 ice storm. Then we were wet throughout 2008.

Excellent moisture last fall delayed planting in many fields and coupled with the dry winter has kept much of our wheat pretty small. Then there was that awful wind that sandblasted the wheat on March 23. Yield prospects could still be good provided we get a few timely rains.

Along with the slow growth, I've seen several fields that have a yellow appearance in the sandier areas and on top of slopes in loamy fields. These fields could benefit from nitrogen.

Also, we are seeing quite a few weeds in some fields where there is still some bare ground exposed. The weeds seem to always have enough moisture.

Right now, as I am writing this, topsoil conditions are still dry and powdery even though 5- to 6-inches down we've got moisture--clear down to 3- to 5-feet.

If you have not top-dressed your fields with nitrogen, you still have about one week left to do that. On the sandy soils, adding sulfur can also be beneficial, especially where organic matter content is low. Fields that had 50 pounds of nitrogen applied in the fall or had a lot of carryover nitrogen on loamy soils probably are in good shape.

The wheat is rooted down well enough that, with good sub-soil moisture, I think farmers can still get a good response to top-dressing and the odds of having decent yield potential this year are promising. However, I would discourage top-dressing wheat after it reaches the jointing stage. A ground applicator running over the field after wheat reaches that growth stage where the head is at or above ground level inside the stem, breaks over the plants and reduces yields.

Whether you use dry fertilizer such as urea or ammonium nitrate or liquid 28 percent or 32 percent urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN) really doesn't matter. Research shows little difference in response. It probably will take a rain to activate the dry fertilizer but, on the other hand, you get more leaf burn from the liquid and this sets the wheat back a bit.

One other place some extra nitrogen may help is on brome grass waterways and pastures. You have about a week on them, as well. With higher cattle prices this spring, this should help profitability for either hay or grazing.

The only benefit from nitrogen applied after the joint stage is that you do increase protein in the grain but you don't get much (if any) yield response. That's beside the fact that a lot of wheat could be flattened and killed by tires rolling through the field.

If you have adequate fertility but still have weed problems, you have time later to use an aerial applicator to spray for the weeds. However, don't let the weeds get too big--get them while they are small.

What makes adequate fertility as well as weed control attractive are prospects for decent wheat prices during the year.

If the Scott Pine is brown, cut it down

Unfortunately, there are a lot of dead pine trees still standing that need to be removed this spring to prevent further spread of the pine wilt disease. If the tree is totally brown, cut off a small diameter branch foot long section next to the trunk and bring it to our office to have it sent in for testing.

To refresh everyone's memory, the pine wilt disease is caused by the pinewood nematode. This microscopic worm is transmitted from tree to tree in the spring and early summer by an insect called the pine sawyer. Once the nematode is inside the tree, it inhibits water movement and the tree dies, usually in late summer or fall. The pine sawyer breeds in recently killed pine wood and emerges in the spring carrying the nematode. It then feeds on bark of small twigs in the crowns of healthy trees. It is at this point that the nematode moves into the fresh wound on the tree and starts the infection.

Pine sawyers are attracted to dead and dying trees in the fall to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on this wood, with adults emerging in the spring. Therefore, it is important to remove and destroy the dead wood in the spring before the insects emerge. We recommend this be done by mid-to-late April. The dead wood can be burned, buried or chipped. Don't save the wood for firewood and don't leave stumps.

Controlling grassy weeds in iris

Many gardeners have problems keeping grassy weeds out of iris. The herbicides "Poast" and "Fusilade II" can be a help for gardeners who don't have the time or inclination for hand weeding. These products are specific for controlling grasses; broadleaves (and iris) are not affected. This means that an applicator can spray over the top of an iris bed without hurting the iris. Poast and Fusilade II are relatively slow acting and it may take over a week for the grasses to start dying. You can find these products under the trade names of "Poast," "Grass-B-Gone," and "Over-The-Top Weed and Grass Killer."

Water deeply and infrequently

It's dry! Lawn grasses and trees need water. However, the right way to water is only once per week and saturate the soil completely.



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