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Agronomy Update

2017 Wheat Outlook

Published on Wednesday, February 08, 2017

We have been experiencing warmer than usual temperatures this winter in Southern Indiana. In terms of wheat, this warm weather has not concerned me as it is what happens in early spring that affects yield the most. The two factors that have the biggest impact on our quest to achieving high-yielding wheat are scouting 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 evaluate 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 identify the growth stage of the wheat. Below is a great chart from the University of Kentucky outlining the wheat growth stages.

We will make most of our N decisions when our wheat at the Feekes 3 growth stage. Similar to corn, research has proven that there is an advantage to split applying N. Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR)® has shown that a split application of N (UAN or urea) has provided a positive return on investment anywhere from $23 to $33/A. There are times, however, when one shot of N can still be beneficial.

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 (50 to 60 units in no-till scenario) at Feekes 3 and then apply the rest of the N at Feekes 5, for a total of 100 to 110 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 applying all your N at that time (100 to 110 total units).

Many farmers throughout Southern Indiana apply all their N while the ground is still frozen. If this is the case for you, I still recommend that you shoot for 100 to 110 units of N. Ideally, you would want to use a mixture of urea and ammonium sulfate at all applications, but this is especially true for the early applications. This way your fields are getting the sulfur they need and you’re contributing a slower releasing N source into the soil.
 
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 as we are seeing more cosmetic damage than normal this year with the small amount of snow cover we have experienced. While the weather has been warm as of late, the forecast is calling for more frigid temperatures in the near future which may have some farmers concerned. The chart below, also from the University of Kentucky, details freeze injury at the different growth stages and the yield effect it may have. I do not anticipate these colder temperatures having any effect on our wheat yields. 

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 local Beck's seed advisor or dealer.

 

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Steve Gauck
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