Planting wheat into dry soils
2. Use a hoe drill to plant deeper than normal into moisture now, if possible. This option can work if the variety to be planted has a long coleoptile, the producer is using a hoe drill, and there is good moisture within reach. The advantage of this option is that the crop should come up and make a stand during the optimum time in the fall. This would keep the soil from blowing. Also, the ridges created by hoe drills also help keep the soil from blowing.
The main risk of this option is poor emergence. Deep-planted wheat normally has below-normal emergence, so a higher seeding rate should be used. Any rain that occurs before the seedlings have emerged could add additional soil into the seed furrow, making it even harder for the coleoptile to reach the soil surface. Any time you increase the seeding depth, the seedling will have to stay within the soil just that much longer before emerging through the soil surface. Delayed emergence leads to more potential for disease and pest problems, and reduced tillering potential late in the season. It’s even possible that the wheat would get planted so deep that it would germinate but never emerge at all, especially if the coleoptile length is too short for the depth of planting. Generally speaking, it’s best to plant no deeper than 3 inches with most varieties.
3. Wait for a rain, and then plant. To overcome the risk of crusting or stand failure, producers may decide to wait until it has rained and soil moisture conditions are adequate before planting. Under the right conditions, this would result in good stands, assuming the producer uses a high seeding rate and a starter fertilizer, if appropriate. If it remains dry well past the optimum range of planting dates, the producer would then have the option of just keeping the wheat seed in the shed until next fall and planting spring crop next year instead.
The risk of this option is that the weather may turn rainy and stay wet later this fall, preventing the producer from planting the wheat at all while those who “dusted” their wheat in have a good stand. There is also the risk of leaving the soil unprotected from the wind through the winter until the spring crop is planted.
Crop insurance considerations and deadlines will play a role in these decisions.
There has been some talk about whether soil moisture can move upward in the soil as the weather gets cooler, and whether this alone might provide enough moisture in the soil surface for wheat to germinate. While it’s true that a small amount of soil moisture will gradually migrate a bit toward cooler areas of the soil, there is no chance that enough moisture will move upward into the seed zone to germinate wheat simply because the temperature at the soil surface has cooled. Where soils are dry, it will take rainfall for wheat to germinate and emerge.
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