6 Factors to Ensure a Good Wheat Establishment

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September, 2015

Ensuring good early establishment in your wheat crop is essential to a healthy crop.  While we are some weeks away from harvest, there are some steps you can start now to plan for success.  I have put together six factors to give your wheat crop a good start.

1 – Plant Quality Seed

If the crop starts off poor, it will likely remain poor.  Nothing gets a crop off to a good start than good seed.  There is nothing wrong with bin run seed assuming you take the following steps.  Ensure you have a good cold germ test to ensure the population you want is the population you will get. There have been several reports of low germ tests from the 2015 crop.  As well, treating bin run seed is almost a mandatory step in managing diseases and bin run seed viability.  The simpler solution is to purchase certified seed and let someone else do the work.  Whichever route you go, have your seed sourced and ready ahead of planting.  There is talk that with a potentially record crop planted this fall good seed could be in short supply.  Plant what you want, not what you can get.

2 – Good Soil Conditions

Ensure the field is fit after combining.  Combine ruts are areas of compaction.  Ruts will collect water resulting in lower germination and higher winterkill.  If rutting has occurred consider vertical tillage to level out the field.  Good soil conditions are crucial for early crop development.  Using corn as an example, waiting 1-2 days to allow soil conditions to improve can gain a week in early development.  Wheat is no different.  Proper seed to soil contact, moisture and temperature allow for quick germination and good population establishment.

3 – Phosphate Starter

While proper fertility is needed in any condition for good plant establishment, in cool, wet conditions, it is essential.  Under these conditions, nutrients are often less available and root growth is less aggressive.  Therefore seed placed phosphate is especially important.  Ideally phosphate with the seed, either dry or liquid will help with early plant establishment.  If seed placed P is not an option, studies have shown a positive response to broadcasted P as well as seed placed P.  Seed placed P is just a bit more cost efficient.

4 – Residue Management

Ensure your combine is spreading the residue as evenly as possible.  As combine heads get bigger, the ability to evenly distribute chaff and straw over the full width of the combine becomes harder.  If cultivating, this residue can plug cultivators resulting in uneven seed bed.  Even the best no-till drills can have a hard time penetrating these high residue paths.  This will result in poorer seed placement, planting depth and germination.

5 – Planting Depth

Check your drill to ensure a planting depth of 1-1.5”.  This ensures proper root establishment and maximizes emergence under most conditions.

6 – Population

When planting make sure you do not skimp on population.  Plant with a goal of seeds/ac and not pounds/ac.  This means knowing your seed density (seeds per lb) and set a rate that achieves your desired plants per acre, not the desired weight per acre.  This number can vary from 10K to 14K seeds per lb. depending on seed size.   Rule of thumb is 1.5 million seeds per acre (22 seeds /ft. row) on clay loam and lighter soil and 1.8 million seeds per acre (27 seeds/ft. row) on clay.  Tweak these numbers upwards as needed at time of planting as temperature, moisture and timing become less ideal or late.  If planting bin run, know your germination and adjust your rates accordingly.

Planning for success is the key to yield and profit.  Take a few minutes when planting to get as many factors as possible right and avoid the headaches later.

If you have any more questions please contact your Veritas Agronomy team.

Jason Van Maanen CCA-ON
Agronomy Specialist
Veritas Farm Management
Chatham, ON N7M 5W3
Desk: 519-380-2097
Cell: 519-360-6850