Wheat state Extension agronomists have numerous suggestions for growers looking to enhance their winter wheat production. Better weed management, seeding rates and optimum planting dates are keys at obtaining a good stand that will generate solid growth this fall and next spring.
Georgia Extension agronomists remind growers that weeds compete with wheat for light, nutrients, water and space, and severe weed infestations can reduce wheat yields by at least 70% if left uncontrolled. Weeds can also harbor insects and diseases and eventually decrease harvest efficiency. Wheat food and feed value can also be reduced by weeds.
Broadleaf weeds such as wild radish, common chickweed and henbit and perennials such as wild garlic, curly dock and Italian ryegrass are major weed problems for many areas. One of the best tools for suppressing weeds in wheat is a healthy, vigorous crop. Good crop management practices that result in rapid wheat stand establishment and canopy development minimize the effects of weeds, say Extension specialists.
A good herbicide program is important in a well-rounded weed-control program. Herbicides are often needed in the fall to help wheat get off to a good start, either for grazing or for straight grain production the following year. Before selecting herbicides, growers should know what weeds are present or expected to appear, say Extension specialists. Growers should also consider soil characteristics such as texture and organic matter content, the capabilities and limitations of the various herbicides and how best to apply each herbicide.
Fields should be monitored periodically to identify the need for postemergence herbicides. Even after herbicides are applied, monitoring should be continued to evaluate the success of the weed management program and to determine the need for preharvest control measures.
Optimum Planting Dates
Planting dates vary in many areas. But wheat for grain planting dates are in October for major wheat-producing areas. Texas AgriLife Extension agronomists say Oct. 10-25 are key dates for West Texas, for example. Planting into November could cause situations in which plants can’t catch up. So if you have a lot of acres to plant and can’t get to it before November, consider having someone else drill at least part of your wheat, they say.
Texas Extension specialists note that recent recommendations for irrigated wheat at optimum planting dates target 60 lbs. of seed/acre. That is less than the up to 90 lbs. recommended eight or nine years ago, they say. However, research has shown there is little or no yield increase for seeding rates above 60 lbs. Dryland seeding rates are 30 lbs./acre, say Texas Extension specialists. However, if the seedbed and soil moisture are only fair, then up to 40 lbs. is recommended.
Nitrogen Fertility Targets
Texas Extension specialists say there are two rules of thumb for nitrogen (N) in wheat, depending on if you have soil test information available. With no soil test, then 1.2 lbs. N/bu. of yield goal is recommended. With a soil test, then 1.5 lbs. N/bu. of yield goal, then adjust fertilizer N for the soil test.
If residual fertility is good, then you may choose to delay all N to topdressing in February and early March, specialists say. Otherwise, applying one-third of the fall preplant or planting will ensure that tillering is not limited.
For more on getting your wheat crop planted efficiently and making sure you have good fertility and a sound weed control program in place, contact your regional Extension specialist and/or crop consultant.