Source: University of Nebraska


It was a long winter, but with the recent spring-like weather the winter wheat crop has turned many fields green across the state. Good soil water conditions and generally good wheat establishment last year bode well for much of the winter wheat crop in western Nebraska.


Winter arrived early last year. The North Platte area received record snowfall in October 2009 of 32 inches. The old record was 10.5 inches or about one-third of the new amount. Snow and cool weather throughout western Nebraska limited fall growth.


Late seeded fields with limited amounts of crop residue were subject to wind erosion. Two or three particularly windy winter days resulted in some wheat being badly damaged by moving soil particles with some being partially buried under soil. Fields damaged by erosion are looking spotty this spring as some areas in the field are growing nicely and other areas are struggling to recover from the winter injury or partial burial.


Most winter wheat fields that were seeded during the recommended seeding date or earlier are rated good or excellent, but there are some problem fields. In most of these problem fields, seeding depth was less than recommended either because of crop residue, lack of weight on the seeder, or a combination of the two. This exposed the crown and roots to winter injury.


Some irrigated wheat fields in Box Butte County are being destroyed due to poor stands resulting from poor fall growth and subsequent damage by wind erosion. Irrigated wheat is frequently planted later than dryland wheat because it is planted after dry beans or sugarbeets are harvested. With the early arrival of winter last fall, this late-seeded wheat had little time to get established. Spring wheat is being reseeded in some of these fields. Unless we have a cool June, spring wheat planted this late will likely struggle to produce good yields.


All fields in the area have excellent soil water; however, in a few fields wheat in low spots was flooded by melting snow during late winter. This has resulted in various levels of damage, depending on how long plants were under water or ice.


Timely Weed Control Recommended
The long winter has also slowed the development of winter annual weeds. Blue mustard, which frequently flowers in early to mid-March has just started to bloom in the Nebraska Panhandle. Other winter annual weeds are just now becoming noticeable in fields. These need to be controlled before they bolt and flower.


The first warm season weeds such as kochia are beginning to emerge along field edges and soon may be emerging in wheat fields. These are most economically controlled with 2,4-D and tank mixes with 2,4-D or dicamba. To minimize the risk of crop injury from these herbicides, they should be applied before winter wheat starts to joint, that is, before the stems start to push the developing wheat heads above the soil surface.