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July 2013 Archive for Ask an Agronomist

RSS By: Farm Journal Agronomists, Farm Journal

Have your agronomic questions answered by a Farm Journal agronomist. E-mail us directly at, and we’ll respond on this blog to provide an interactive dialogue.

How Would You Choose a High-Yielding Wheat Variety?

Jul 30, 2013

Question: How is the best way to choose a high-yielding wheat variety?  I want to grow over 100 bu/a of wheat and 30 bu/a soybeans double-crop. I’m thinking of planting 150 pounds per acre. Any thoughts?

 Answer: I feel that most farmers spend lots of time comparing and selecting corn hybrids and soybean varieties for their farm, but too often I see growers calling their local seed dealer a few days before they start planting wheat, and all the dealer has left are the older varieties that everyone else doesn’t want. By contrast, I’m always scouring each production region I work with for new wheat varieties which offer higher yield potential than what’s currently available. It’s frequently an easy way of boosting wheat yields 10 bu/a or more, especially if the varieties currently raised have been commercially released for over five years. Next, I look for varieties with shorter plant height ideally coupled with stiff stems, which helps them stand up with the increased N rates required for higher yields. I also look for varieties with a good overall agronomic package including head scab tolerance which is essential in higher rainfall areas.

If you can find say 10 or 20 acres worth of each new variety, then position them alongside existing varieties grown on the farm, you can compare their agronomic package and profit performance side by side. Often these new varieties are in limited supply, so they have to be selected and purchased early. Lastly, I encourage all my clients to raise at least three to four different varieties to spread their risk, representing the early, medium and later maturity groups, to spread the workload at harvest.

On the 150 lb/a seeding rate I wouldn’t recommend that at all. All my growers plant by seed population, rather than pounds per acre. Wheat seed sizes can change dramatically, so planting 150 lb/a would be like planting 25 lb/a of corn in the spring, and you have 35 lb/80,000 kernels in one field and 62 lb/80,000 in another field. Depending on seeding conditions, tillage practices and planting dates, seed rates should be adjusted from around 1.3 million per acre -- when seeding early into good conditions -- to around 2 million when seeding late into heavy residue no-till conditions.

Wheat Shows Its Strength
Management system should determine farmers’ choice of varieties.

Calculate Wheat Seeding Rates
Choosing the right variety is one thing, seeding the proper amount for optimum yields is another.



Should I Use A Fungicide in Corn this Year?

Jul 23, 2013

Question: Should I use a fungicide in my corn this year—how do I know if it’s worth the cost?

Answer: Knowing your risk for disease and scouting fields are the only ways to know with any certainty. I can tell you the odds are more in favor of a fungicide application this year, especially in those areas that encountered delayed corn planting and excess moisture. Both of these factors encourage foliar disease.  Other benefits you may see this year from fungicide use are help with standability and in-field drydown as well slowing the spread of disease to allow for longer rotations.  If you do decide on a fungicide treatment, make sure the method of application you choose is planned out ahead of time.  Here are some additional considerations:

  1. Take a disease manual with you when you go to the field. Know which diseases to look for based on your current conditions.
  2. Group your fields by risk level to help dictate your scouting routine.
  3. If you spray a fungicide, recheck the field to evaluate control and evaluate for any imbalance of nature caused by the application.

Fungicide applications in corn may be increasing

In the past, fungicide applications on hybrid corn were mostly regarded as uneconomical but an increase in corn-following-corn acres, associated increased disease risk and the higher price of corn mean fungicide applications may be more common.



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