Crop & Pest Report


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Planting Winter Wheat on Prevent Plant Acres (08/13/20)

Winter wheat was planted on only 40,000 acres this past year, the smallest area since 1995, and only a fraction of the 870,000 acres planted in 2014.

Winter wheat was planted on only 40,000 acres this past year, the smallest area since 1995, and only a fraction of the 870,000 acres planted in 2014. The persistent rains last fall that made planting difficult was undoubtedly one of the reasons for the low acreage of winter wheat. The current price spread between winter and spring wheat strongly favors spring wheat. Nevertheless, winter wheat may be a good crop to plant this fall, particularly in the prevent plant acres that are currently fallow. Positives for growing winter wheat are that it can spread out the workload, provide important green cover this fall and early next spring. It also usually has a yield advantage over spring wheat. The following are some recommendations to consider when planting winter wheat this fall.

1.     I normally recommend that winter wheat is planted into standing stubble as the stubble is able to retain snow during the winter. Snow cover insulates the crop and reduces the risk of winter kill. Nevertheless, winter wheat can be successfully produced when planted into prevent plant acres where there is little or no residue due to previous tillage. When planting winter wheat into tilled ground, plant the most winter-hardy varieties. To check on the performance of available varieties in 2020, refer to the Winter Wheat Variety Trial Results on NDSU’s Extension website (some winter wheat data is already available). Also refer to the North Dakota Winter Wheat Selection Guide (A1196-19) for information on the winter hardiness of released varieties and the performance of varieties last year. Availability of certified seed of some varieties may be limited due to small winter wheat acreage. Refer to the seed guides in North Dakota and South Dakota to source certified seed.


2.     Plant in September: The optimum planting date for the northern half of the state is September 1-15 and for the southern half, September 15-30. In recent years, plantings during the first ten days of October have largely been successful. However, seedlings that are well established and have developed one tiller prior to freeze-up tend to be more winter hardy than plants at other stages.


3.     Break the green bridge before planting. Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) is vectored by the wheat curl mite. These mites will die within two weeks if they do not have access to green tissue. Breaking the green bridge means that there is a two-week period between the death of the last volunteer wheat plant or grassy host of the mite and the emergence of the winter wheat crop. The risk of a winter wheat crop becoming infected with wheat streak mosaic virus is greater during earlier planting dates when temperatures are higher and the mites are more active. In tilled fields where weeds and volunteers have been adequately controlled, the risk of the transmission of WSMV is significantly reduced. Nevertheless, mites may move from adjacent crops or weedy fields when winter wheat is planted earlier than the recommended period.


4.     Seed about a million seeds per acre. Generally, a seeding rate of 900,000 to 1.2 million viable seeds per acre are adequate. The higher seeding rate may be appropriate if planting late or when planting into poor seedbeds. Since winter wheat tends to tiller more profusely than spring cereals, 1.2 million seeds per acre is the upper end of the recommended seeding rate. Excessively high seeding rates can result in more lodging by harvest time, particularly if you are using a taller variety or a variety that has poor straw strength. 


Joel Ransom

Extension Agronomist, Cereal Crops

This site is supported in part by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27144/accession 1013592] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the website author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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