Seedbed conditions, seeding equipment influence wheat-planting decisions
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Dryland Farm south of North Platte, this has been the driest period (Sept. 1, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012) since record-keeping began in 1907 with 10.79 inches of precipitation. The same period in 2002 was the second driest with 10.81 inches of precipitation. The driest crop season also was this year. From May 1 to Aug. 21 the Dryland Farm had 2.66 inches of precipitation. In 2002, 3.93 inches was recorded.
With dry conditions as they are going into wheat-planting season, many producers are weighing the risks and wondering whether it's better to seed winter wheat at the optimum time or wait for rainfall to improve soil moisture.
For seedbeds (usually chem-fallow) where the seed can be placed in firm soil at the correct seeding depth for the winter wheat variety, the crop producer's best option is probably to go ahead and seed at the optimum time even if the soil is dry and the wheat seed will not germinate immediately. Wheat requires 41 percent seed moisture for germination, which is 9 percent more than corn (32 percent) but 10 percent less than soybean (51 percent).
If the seedbed is loose and the seed would be placed in loose soil, delay seeding until there is moisture to firm the seedbed. Seed placed in a loose seedbed is one of the leading causes of winter injury such as winterkill and root and crown rot.
For continuous cropping, do not till. If you do till, the seedbed will dry out to the depth of tillage. The soil should be firm after soybeans are harvested and tillage is not needed as wheat prefers a firm seedbed.
When seeding winter wheat this year, make sure the drill is running lower in back than normal. Transfer more drill weight to the back of the drill and add extra weight to the drill. This will allow for penetration into dry, hard soil, forcing the seed into the soil and insuring seed-to-soil contact. Also, don't seed wheat too shallow. When using disc drills, plant at a depth of 2 inches or more.
Do not seed winter wheat much earlier than the suggested seeding date for your area. Early seeding leads to problems with diseases, such as wheat streak mosaic, and insects such as the Hessian fly.
As with all these rules there are exceptions. The biggest is to make sure you seed by the required date for crop insurance in your area.
The Furnas County Wheat Variety Plot was located three miles west of Beaver City on land farmed by Ron McClain. The chem-fallow plot was planted into corn stalks and featured 44 varieties/hybrids. The average yield for the plot was 77 bushels per acre. Byrd had the highest yield at 92.8 bushels per acre. Byrd is a new variety of hard red winter wheat released by Colorado State University.
The Hitchcock County plot averaged 87 bushels per acre with the same variety, Byrd, having the highest yield at 112.9 bushels per acre.
While it is seldom wise to base next year's production plans solely on this year's results, wheat growers who saw a lot of disease issues may want to consider selecting wheat varieties with good resistance to the diseases of greatest interest. If plant emergence was a problem because of deep seeding to try and get seed in contact with moist soil, growers may wish to consider wheat varieties with a long coleoptile.
Whatever the coming season has in store, one of the most critical decisions a wheat grower will make is the choice of wheat varieties. One of the resources to use in making this decision is the Wheat Varieties Virtual Tour available at http://cropwatch.unl.edu/web/wheat/virtual.
The Wheat Varieties Virtual Tour site is updated each year in early August with the results from the latest statewide variety testing program. This ensures that growers have access to the most current information on winter wheat varieties when making their seed purchases.
Selecting adapted and complimentary varieties is one of the most important decisions a wheat grower will make for this season. Make a more informed decision by visiting the Wheat Varieties Virtual Tour.
Additional information on wheat varieties can be found at the UNL Variety Testing Page at http://cropwatch.unl.edu/web/varietytest/wheat.