Question: My biggest issue with raising wheat is to keep it from lodging. I currently have been putting my nitrogen on when the wheat is 6-inches tall, to try to slow down the vegetative growth. Can I put it on later (I don't want to give up any yield potential)? Or, is there a growth regulator or any other product I could use to try and hold down the growth and not suppress yield?
Answer: Lodging can be a serious yield limiting problem, but without understanding a little more with regards to specific region and some of your field/crop management operations, it’s very difficult to answer your question accurately. However, I suggest that there are a number of management considerations, which can eliminate or at least reduce lodging.
1) Begin by selecting and planting wheat varieties with high standards of standability. Such varieties are frequently short (but not always) and they almost always have thicker stems, which lead to improved standability plus the ability to push yields higher with elevated nitrogen rates.
2) Watch your head densities at harvest time. I have frequently seen excessively thick fields of wheat lay flat on the ground with only 100 lb/A of spring-applied nitrogen, alongside the same variety in the next field that had 120 lb/A of spring-applied nitrogen and stood perfectly. The differences were the planting date, seeding rate and timing of the nitrogen applications. Later nitrogen applications, as you explained, should help standability standards, but they may need to be used in combination with the other management practices.
3) Is your wheat lodging by kinking the stem; or, is the plant falling over within loose saturated soils? There is a big difference, and each of these requires a different management approach.
4) Watch your diseases, as root and stem diseases can play a big part in standability.
5) The only affordable growth regulator available currently for wheat within the U.S. is Cerone. Based upon my research and experience, it’s absolutely a last resort after the above management steps have been exhausted. Cerone is very temperature sensitive and can result in significant yield losses if not timed and applied correctly.
Small, incremental management changes can improve your crop.