Want to know how seeding rates affect wheat yields? Kansas-based Horton Seed Services has done some legwork on this very issue.
Horton Seed Services has performed a three-year seeding rate study, testing varieties to see how population affects yield. The evidence points toward 500,000-650,000 seeds per acre, (equal to 40-45 lb. per acre), instead of 800,000 seeds per acre, (equal to the average 60 lb. per acre), to establish strong stand establishment, according to Alec Horton. A lower seeding rate soaks up less moisture for vegetative growth and leaves more for the critical grain fill period.
“If we drop our seeding rates, promote tiller growth, and save moisture, we’ve found we can still yield just as much, if not more,” he says. “When we get really dry, we can sluff off tillers easy without a big moisture pull.”
Horton says he looks for a final head count specific to each variety, and lower seeding rates are helping him do that because tillers are easier to lose than primary heads when conditions get dry.
Planting based on a seeds-per-acre approach, the Hortons believe the technique helps increase consistency and precision planting of wheat from year to year. Essentially, they are always dropping the same amount instead of varying up to 100,000 seeds per acre depending on seeds per pound.
“Everything costs in today’s world, and with low commodity prices, if you could cut your seed expense and conserve moisture during dry periods to let the crop hang on until a rain comes, then it’s definitely something to look into,” Horton says.
The 2016 crop season verified they were on the “right road” according to Alec Horton’s brother, Rick.
“All we do is geared toward raising wheat in years with little rain,” he says. “The stars have to line up for super yields. When it rained in the spring, we believed we were on to something. We counted head sizes and knew yields would be special.”
The yields were indeed special – weighing in at a bin-busting 121.48 bu. per acre, enough to win this year’s Kansas Wheat Yield Contest.
“We loved the big yields and were honored to win the contest, but knowing your team efforts aren’t wasted is the most satisfying thing of all,” Horton adds.