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Agronomy Update

Evaluating Your Wheat Stands

Published on Thursday, February 25, 2016

Many farmers have been asking about wheat and nitrogen (N) management. As you begin to evaluate your wheat stand, one of the most important things to remember is to perform stand checks. This can be done with a 1 x 1 ft. square, as shown below. Be sure to take counts at multiple locations that represent different landscape positions in your fields.



As wheat begins to break dormancy, the first thing we need to look at is the number of tillers the average wheat plant has. At green up, you will want to see 70 to 100 tillers/sq. ft. As you take stand counts, be sure to also identify the growth stage of the wheat. Below is a great chart from the University of Kentucky outlining these growth stages.



Wheat at the Feekes 3 growth stage is where we will make N decisions. If your counts are below 80 tillers/sq. ft. at Feekes 3, you will need to apply N at that time. If your tiller counts are low, my recommendation would be to apply 30 to 40 units of N applied (50 to 60 units in no-till), with the rest of the N applied at Feekes 5, for a total of 100 to 110 total units of N for the spring.

If your tiller counts are above 80 tillers/sq. ft. I would recommend holding off until Feekes 5 and then apply all your N at that time (100 to 110 total units.)

Many farmers throughout our area apply all their N while the ground is still frozen. If this is the case for you, I would still recommend that you shoot for 100 to 110 units of N, but apply half of the N as ammonium sulfate and the other half as urea. This way your fields are getting sulfur and your adding a slower releasing N source.

I have also recently received a few calls about burnt leaf tips, as depicted in the photo below. 



I am not concerned about yield loss with these burnt leaves. With the small amount of snow cover we have experienced this winter, we are seeing more cosmetic damage than normal.

We will also see some colder temperatures in the near future, but I do not think they will cause any yield concerns. The chart below, also from the University of Kentucky, details freeze injury at the different growth stages and the yield effect it may have. 


Remember. Wheat is very tough and forgiving, and we still have the potential for great yields! If you have any questions about wheat stand evaluations or nitrogen applications, don't hesitate to reach out to your Beck's dealer or seed advisor.



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Steve Gauck
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