Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Maximize Wheat Yield Potential Despite Late Planting Dates

Carrie Knott, Extension Agronomist-Princeton, University of Kentucky

For most areas in Kentucky, this spring and summer has been unseasonably wet and cool. Since April rainfall across Kentucky has been almost 6 inches above normal and the daily high temperatures have been almost two degrees Fahrenheit cooler than normal. These unseasonably wet and cool spring and summer conditions delayed corn planting. This year on May 19 only 56% of the corn was planted as compared to 75% for the five-year average. This will likely delay corn harvest. As of September 1 only 1% of corn was harvested as compared to 12% for the five-year average. Wheat producers need to be prepared for delayed plantings this year due to delayed corn planting, development and harvest.

To attain maximum yield potential the University of Kentucky recommends planting wheat between October 10 and October 30. If wheat planting is delayed then yield potential can be reduced, depending on weather conditions, due to decreased fall tillering, cold injury, and heaving (uplifting of plant and root systems from the soil due to freezing and thawing of the soil). If wheat planting must be delayed this year due to late corn harvest and/or adverse weather conditions, consider increasing seeding rates. For each two week delay in wheat planting, past October 30, increase seeding rates by two to three seeds per square foot (one to two seeds per linear foot of row). Increasing seeding rates will likely compensate for reduced fall tillering of late planted wheat and increase yields of late planted wheat.

The soil condition of wheat fields is also of great concern this year. Unseasonably wet conditions this year likely eliminated any nitrogen carryover from the corn crop. Consider applying 20 to 40 lb N/acre at or near planting, particularly if wheat planting occurs after the first week of November and is following corn. Soil compaction is another concern. Many producers ‘mudded in’ corn fields this year. This will result in soil compaction problems. If wet conditions are also present at corn harvest soil compaction will be worsened. Soil compaction reduces wheat yield potential; therefore scout fields early and be prepared to correct any soil compaction problems that are detected.

Additional considerations for a timely and effective wheat planting season is even distribution of corn residue throughout the field in no-till systems. This will ensure that seeds are drilled to the proper depth of 1 to 1.5 inches, which will reduce risks of cold injury and heaving. Because of very little time that will likely be between corn harvest and wheat planting consider calibrating wheat drills now before corn harvest begins. With thoughtful planning the potential wheat yield reduction due to late plantings can be minimized.

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