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Tips for Planting Winter Wheat in 2015 (08/13/15)

For those planning on planting winter wheat this fall, it is time to start preparing. There are many reason why including winter wheat into your cropping mix can be a good choice.

Tips for Planting Winter Wheat in 2015

For those planning on planting winter wheat this fall, it is time to start preparing. There are many reason why including winter wheat into your cropping mix can be a good choice. There are some challenges in producing a good crop, however, with winter kill and diseases topping the list. The following are some suggestions that might help mitigate the risks associated with planting winter wheat. I have adapted this from an article that I published last year as most of the comments are relevant again this year.

1-      When possible plant winter wheat into standing stubble.  Survival of winter wheat during the winter is enhanced when it is covered with snow during the coldest months of the year.  Standing crop residues can effectively retain snow that may fall.  Tall, erect flax and canola stubble works best, but any erect stubble that will retain snow is recommended.  Planting winter wheat into wheat stubble is not ideal for disease reasons, but as long as disease management is planned, wheat stubble can be an acceptable residue.

2-      Plant winter-hardy adapted varieties. Use a winter hardy variety, especially if you are not planting into a standing residue. Accipiter, Decade, Jerry, Moats, Peregrine, Radiant, WB Matlock are among the most winter hardy varieties. Varieties developed in Canada and North Dakota usually have good winter-hardiness. Varieties that were developed for Nebraska may not have sufficient winter-hardiness some years, and should be used only if planted into standing stubble. Varieties developed in SD and MT tend to be intermediate in winter hardiness to those developed in ND/Canada and those developed in NE. Additional information to aid in variety selection can be found in the most recent winter wheat variety selection guide . The directories of certified winter wheat seed growers are available on the web for North Dakota and South Dakota

3-      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. The last practical date that winter wheat can be planted will depend on the weather since there must be enough moisture and growing degree days so that the seed can germinate and the seedling vernalize by spring. Larger seedlings will over winter better than a small seedling.  Target the earlier portion of the recommended planting date range if planting into bare, fallow ground.

4-      Plant 1 to 1.5 inches deep: Adequate moisture for establishing winter wheat is often a concern as the soil profile is usually depleted of moisture in the fall.  If there is little or no moisture in the soil’s surface, planting shallow (1 to 1.5 inches deep) and waiting for rain is recommended.  Furthermore, these relatively shallow planting depths allow for faster emergence when temperatures are rapidly declining. 

5-      Seed about a million seeds per acre:  Generally a seeding rate of 900,000 to 1.2 million viable seed per acre is 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 wheat, 1.2 million seeds per acre is the upper end of the recommended seeding rate.  Excessively high seed rates can result in more lodging by harvest time, particularly if you are using a taller variety (like Jerry). 

6-      Break the green bridge.  Breaking the green bridge is critical to reducing the risk of infection of the Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus. This disease is vectored by a tiny mite that moves from green tissue to green tissue largely by wind. Breaking the green bridge is particularly important when winter wheat is planted early. The green bridge is broken by controlling volunteer cereal crops and grassy weeds in a field two weeks prior to planting winter wheat. A two-week window of not having a host present assures that the mite has gone through its lifecycle and not found a subsequent host to feed on and transmit the virus.

7-      Avoid varieties that are highly susceptible to scab. Scab is not always a problem in winter wheat. Scab severely affected the winter wheat crop in much of the state in 2014 and in more isolated parts of the state in 2015 (still receiving reports so the status may change when more information is available). Unfortunately we do not have the number of resistant varieties in winter wheat that we do in spring wheat. Furthermore, fungicide is only partially effective in controlling scab even when properly applied. Given this scenario, I would recommend that you avoid most susceptible varieties if you feel that scab could be problematic again next year. Recent research suggest that the five varieties with the most tolerance to scab are Emerson, Lyman, Art, WB Matlock, and Jerry while the varieties with greatest susceptibility are Flourish, WB Grainfield, Decade, Moats, and Robidoux.

Joel Ransom

Extension Agronomist for Cereal Crops

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