It’s common to plant wheat by the pound, compared to planting by the seed like in corn or soybeans, but research shows "planting by the pound" might not be the most efficient method. If you’re getting ready to plant spring wheat or making plans for winter wheat establishment, you want to be aware of how seed size variations can impact your seeding rate.
“Seed size varies,” says Robert Klein, a western Nebraska crop specialist at the University of Nebraska. “In 2014, we ranged from 10,700 seeds to 16,400 seeds per pound.”
That’s not the biggest gap he’s seen either. In 2013, he says, there was an 11,000-seed-per-pound gap, with a range of 12,000 seeds to 23,000 seeds per pound. This knowledge is vital to your operation so you optimize your seeding rate agronomically and economically.
After all, both overseeding and underseeding can lead to agronomic issues that result in yield loss. “Underplanting limits yield potential and wheat is less competitive with weeds,” Klein says. Overplanting is just as problematic; it raises your seed cost and leads to fierce competition for water, sunlight and nutrients among all those wheat plants.
How can you avoid overplanting or underplanting? The simple answer is to learn how many seeds per pound in your chosen wheat variety. Klein says using certified seed could be an effective method since most certified seed lists the number of seeds per pound.
Monsanto’s Westbred wheat has another option to help farmers and retailers understand seeds per pound. The Wheat Insight System is said to provide farmers a new way to buy wheat seed and can also provide agronomic recommendations. The tool calculates how many seeds are in each pound of wheat and can process a sample of seeds in about one minute. After processing the sample, you’ll receive a printout of the “optimal seed rate.”
Optimum seeding rate varies by location. “If it’s dry (when planting or a dry season), they’ll go lower,” Klein says. “If conditions are good, go to a higher population.” He says to consider soil type, moisture considerations, productivity and yield potential. Fields with better growing conditions allow you to boost your populations, but you can get more specific wheat population recommendations by talking to your local agronomist.
Once you have the optimum seeding rate, you can determine how many pounds of wheat seed you need to apply to each acre by dividing the optimum seeding rate by the number of pounds per seed.