Wheat seeding tips for good stand establishment
Soils remain very dry in many parts of western and southern Kansas, which may have producers thinking about how to get a stand of wheat under these conditions. Whatever the soil conditions, there are a few important steps producers can take to improve their chances of getting a good stand of wheat:
* Proper tractor speed. It is best to use a tractor speed of between 5 and 6 miles per hour in most cases when drilling wheat, depending on the amount of down pressure on the openers. If higher speeds are used, the openers can tend to “ride up” in the soil every now and then if down pressure is insufficient, similar to the effect of a speedboat pulling a water skier. At slow speeds, the water skier sinks into the water a bit; but once the boat picks up speed the water skier lifts up onto the surface of the water. The same principle applies to a tractor pulling a grain drill.
* Proper, uniform seeding depth. The ideal planting depth for wheat in most cases is about 1.5 inches. When planting early into very warm soils, it is especially important not to plant too deeply since coleoptile lengths are shorter than normal under warm conditions. On the other extreme, producers should also be especially careful not to plant too deeply when planting later than the recommended time into very cool soils. Getting a uniform seeding depth is also important. Where producers are planting into fields with heavy residue, or where there is uneven distribution of chaff from the previous crop, uneven planting depth can be a serious problem. In those situations, it is common to end up with poor stand establishment in areas of the field where the drill opener rode up over the residue or chaff, and was unable to penetrate the soil to the same depth as in other areas of the field.
* Firm seedbed. One of the most common problems in wheat stand establishment is planting into loose, fluffy soils. This problem tends to occur most often where soils have been tilled repeatedly during the summer. When seeds are planted into loose soils, rains in the fall will settle the soil and leave the crowns of the seedlings too close to the soil surface. Having a good closing system behind the drill openers, with adequate down pressure, should help.
* Plant during the optimum time. In general, wheat should be planted somewhere around the Hessian fly-free date. There may be good reasons to plant some wheat before the fly-free date, such as planting for pasture or time pressures from having considerable acreage to plant. But stand establishment and ultimate grain yields are usually best when wheat is planted after the fly-free date and before deadlines set by crop insurance. Planting more than three weeks after the fly-free date can be risky. Late-planted wheat often does not develop an adequate root system before winter, and forms fewer productive fall tillers. When planting late, seeding rates should be increased by 25 to 50 percent (up to a maximum of 120 lbs/acre) to help ensure an adequate stand and compensate for the lack of tillering.
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