Wheat Seeding Tips for Successful Stand Establishment

Erick Larson, State Extension Specialist - Grain Crops
By Erick Larson, State Extension Specialist - Grain Crops November 1, 2012 11:31

Wheat Seeding Tips for Successful Stand Establishment

Although wheat and other small grains may be successfully established using various rudimentary broadcast planting methods, I generally recommend planting your grain crop with a drill, in order to optimize stand establishment, vigor and seedling survival.  By planting wheat with a grain drill using sound management techniques, you can use more conservative wheat seeding rates without reducing productivity.  Our normal planting recommendation is to strive to establish 1.0 to 1.3 million wheat plants/acre or 23 to 30 plants/ft.2.   While it is important to strive for specific planting standards, wheat does have outstanding capability to compensate for wide variation of plant density.  In other words, wheat research from the Mid-South generally shows a very flat response to seeding rate over a wide range, particularly higher than the suggested guidelines.  Thus, an acceptable final stand of small grains can be as low as 50% of the establishment goal of 1.0-1.3 million plants per acre (500,000 plants per acre or 11 per sq. ft.).  However, wheat seed size can range from 11,000 to 18,000 seeds per pound (should be noted on the tag), so you should base seeding rate on the number of seeds (seeds per pound), rather than on the volume or weight of the seeds (bushels per acre).  This may help your pocketbook somewhat, particularly if you use an insecticide seed treatment.  Only a few situations justify using higher than normal seeding rates (10-20%), including no-tillage into high residue or extremely late plantings, for adequate stand establishment. 

Some have asked about broadcast-planting on raised beds (primarily to facilitate irrigation of the subsequent double-crop), and this method can be productive given adequate drainage.  However, the appropriate seeding rate for broadcasting and incorporating seed is considerably higher (40-45 seeds/ft.2), because emergence success will likely be modest (60-70% of planted seed).   If you broadcast small grain seed on the soil surface without subsequent incorporation (such as aerial seeding of muddy fields), you should generally utilize very high seeding rates (50-60 seeds/ft2), because emergence and seedling survival can be relatively low (around 50% of planted seed).

Winter weeds can be very competitive with wheat.

Given the rains scattered over the past several weeks, both summer and winter weeds may be emerged in many fields.  It is essential to kill weeds before planting wheat.  A burndown herbicide applied prior to planting and/or before crop emergence is necessary to eliminate weed competition during emergence and early tillering stages, particularly in a no-tillage system.  Tillage may also serve the same purpose in conventionally prepared seedbeds.  In fact, tillage may be the most practical option to control volunteer Roundup Ready corn prior to planting wheat.  Maintaining a weed-free environment during planting and stand establishment is essential because weeds are very competitive with young wheat plants, particularly if they emerge before or at the same time as the wheat crop.  Likewise, don’t fall into the assumption that wheat weed control is easy and can wait till springtime.  I believe this is where we often leave a lot of wheat yield potential on the table.  Abundant populations of quick-starting weeds, including henbit and annual bluegrass, may intensely compete with wheat for over 100 days, if left unimpeded until the spring. 

 

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Erick Larson, State Extension Specialist - Grain Crops
By Erick Larson, State Extension Specialist - Grain Crops November 1, 2012 11:31
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