Winter wheat offers farmers a good opportunity to end one of the toughest years on record on a positive note. Prepare planters to perform in hard, dry soils with sharp blades and by setting the appropriate down pressure.
A winter wheat crop could help make up for poor corn and soybean yields. Make sure your wheat gets off to a good start.
Winter wheat is more important to Frank Brittingham this year than ever before. Like many other southwest Indiana farmers, Brittingham watched his corn and soybean crops burn up in the summer heat. This fall, he hopes for better weather and a fresh start with his 500-acre wheat crop.
"I’ll no-till the wheat in early October," says Brittingham, who farms near Francisco, Ind. "It should be easy planting as there won’t be much residue from cornstalks."
In the process, Brittingham hopes to take advantage of the high levels of nutrients he believes the stressed corn and soybean crops were unable to use and left behind.
Nutrient availability is an important consideration for farmers planning to grow winter wheat, contends Phil Needham, Farm Journal high-yield wheat expert based in Calhoun, Ky.
"With poor corn and soybean crops in many areas, there’s a lot of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium left in fields, so nutrient requirements for wheat may not be as great as they are in most years," he explains. "I’m most concerned about nitrogen, as an overabundance can lead to standability problems closer to harvest."
For that reason, Needham recommends that farmers plant shorter, stiffer strawed varieties this fall and take a cautious approach with their nitrogen program next spring.
Despite the expected abundance of nutrients, Needham still recommends that farmers band starter phosphate in the row in fall, especially if no-tilling wheat into corn. He recommends either MAP 11-52-0 or DAP 18-46-0, based solely on soil pH.
"I would adjust applications upward or downward depending on the quality of the corn crop you grew this year and the soil test levels," says Needham, who notes that applications could vary widely, from 50 lb. to 150 lb. per acre.
To jump-start his wheat crop before the weather turns cold, Brittingham plans to apply 75 lb. of DAP 18-46-0 in the row with the seed. He doesn’t anticipate applying additional nitrogen until spring, when he’ll topdress the wheat crop with split applications.
"We’ll put around half on in February and then come back in late March and put the rest of it on," he says.
Acreage increase. Needham says that due to strong wheat prices, he anticipates farmers will plant more wheat this fall than last year, which also saw an acreage increase. The USDA–National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that winter wheat production was approximately 1.67 billion bushels in 2012, up roughly 12% from 2011.
- September 2012