Wheat seeding tips for good stand establishment
* Adequate soil fertility. In general, producers should apply at least part of their nitrogen before or at planting time to get the plants off to a strong start. Nitrogen rates of 20-30 lbs can help with fall establishment and tillering. If the soil is low or very low in phosphorus or potassium, these nutrients should be applied at planting time as well so that the plants benefit early in their development. Starter phosphorus with the seed or band-applied close to the seed can also help with fall early growth and establishment, particularly in low testing soils. Low soil pH can be a concern particularly early in the season when root systems are mostly near the surface, which is often an area of lower pH. Soil tests will determine the need for pH adjustment, and potential for aluminum toxicity. Lime application, variety selection, and phosphorus application with the seed are potential management strategies for low pH and aluminum toxicity issues.
* Using a seed treatment. Fungicide seed treatments may help with stand establishment in certain situations. For seed production fields, a systemic seed treatment is highly recommended to help keep seedborne pathogens such as bunt and loose smut out of seed stocks. In addition, seed treatments sometimes improve stands. Due to the high value of the seed produced, even small yield increases can justify the use of seed treatments. For grain production fields, seed treatment economics are less certain. Conditions favoring use of standard seed treatments in grain production fields include: 1) high yield potential field, 2) seed saved from field with loose smut, bunt, or Fusarium head blight last year, 3) expensive seed, 4) low planting rates, 5) planting under poor germination conditions, especially very early or late planting, or 6) poor quality or old seed. If planting that late or into heavy residue, it’s probably a good idea to use a fungicide seed treatment, even on seed that has high test weight and good germination. Insecticide seed treatments may be needed for control of soil insects (see separate article in this issue).
* Make adjustments for planting into row crop stubble. When planting wheat into grain sorghum stubble, producers will need an extra 30 lbs N per acre over their normal N rate. Also, it is important to make sure the sorghum is dead before planting wheat. When planting wheat into soybean stubble, producers should not reduce their N rates since the N credit from soybeans doesn’t take effect until the following spring. If the wheat is being planted no-till after row crop harvest, N rates should be increased by 20 lbs N per acre over the normal N rate. Seeding rates should be increased when planting wheat late after row crop harvest. It’s best to use a seeding rate of 90 to 120 lbs per acre in central and eastern Kansas, and 75 to 100 lbs per acre in western Kansas. When planting more than three week’s after the Hessian fly-free date, producers should use a seeding rate of 120 lbs per acre.
* Watch out for potential disease issues when planting into corn residue. The risk of some diseases may be higher when wheat is planted into fields with large amounts of corn residue left on the soil surface. Fusarium head blight (scab) of wheat, for example, is caused by a fungus that is known to cause a stalk rot of corn. This elevated risk of Fusarium head blight is best countered with wheat varieties with genetic resistance to disease. Wheat varieties with moderate levels of resistance to Fusarium include Everest, Hitch, and Overland. Other wheat varieties should be considered susceptible to head blight.