Seeding winter wheat late and thickening stands

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click image to zoomRobert KleinFigures 2-4. High winds with gusts up to 70 mph swept across western Nebraska Oct. 18, stripping corn ears and damaging wheat seedlings in this field in western Keith County. This fall many winter wheat fields may not have sufficient stands for profitable production due to the lack of soil moisture or damage from high winds that swept across the state Oct. 18.

If you are evaluating your fields, consider this guide: If the stand is fairly uniform and is about the population you would expect from a seeding rate of 30 lb /ac of average size seed (about 15,000 seeds/lb), it is probably best to leave the stand as is. (See the NebGuide Estimating Winter Wheat Yields, G1429, for more information.) If the stand is not uniform or less than what you would expect from a seeding rate of 30 lb/ac, you may want to thicken up the stand or reseed the field. click image to zoom

In determining how to proceed with your winter wheat, consider:

  • Seed or reseed as soon as possible. To reduce wind erosion problems before crop establishment, consider using a hoe-type opener with drill spacing of at least 10 inches. This will help create surface clods and ridges.
  • Robert KleinWinter wheat was silted under to the depth of the knife in this field. Adjust your normal seeding rate. If seeding winter wheat now or in the near future in dryland, use 90 lb/acre of average size seed. In eastern Nebraska and in irrigated fields, increase the rate to 120 lb/acre of average size seed. Increase the seeding rate for large seed or decrease for small seed by the appropriate amount.
  • Apply 15 to 20 lb/ac of phosphorus (starter fertilizer) with the seed, regardless of phosphorus levels in the soil. If you don’t have fertilizer equipment on the seeder, ask your fertilizer dealer to mix 11-52-0 or 18-46-0 with the seed. We prefer 11-52-0. Most fertilizer dealers are able to do a good job of mixing fertilizer and wheat seed. If you have liquid fertilizer equipment on your seeder, use 10-34-0. Do not include 12-0-0-26 as it will reduce germination.
  • Seed at least 1 to 1.5 inches deep, making sure the seed is well covered. If you cannot place the seed close to 1 inch deep, you may want to delay seeding until you can seed at the desired depth. Shallow seeding depth can result in winter injury (crown and root rot).

Winter wheat seeded late can survive the winter in most cases if there is enough warm weather for the wheat to develop a couple of tillers and a secondary root system.


For more information, see these UNL Extension publications:

  • Seeding Rates for Winter Wheat in Nebraska, G2056, reviews winter wheat trials in Nebraska and shows how widely the number of seeds per pound can vary within and among varieties. This led to the recommendation to plant according to seeds per acre rather than pounds per acre.
  • Wind Erosion and Its Control, G1537, discusses the process through which wind erodes soil and steps growers can take to reduce potential damage.
  • Emergency Wind Erosion Control, G2006, covers temporary techniques for emergency wind erosion control to protect young seedlings.
  • Estimating Winter Wheat Grain Yields, G1429, describes three methods for estimating winter wheat grain yields at different points in the season.
  • Wheat section of CropWatch

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