(Written by John Sanderson, Extension Agent – Field Crops)
Wheat is projected to exceed 900,000 acres in North Carolina this year with good commodity prices wheat is a excellent crop to fit into the farm plan for 2012-2013. More options are available with the opportunity to double crop with either soybeans or grain sorghum. However input cost will also increase for this wheat crop with higher seed, fertilizer, chemical, and production cost. As in the past it is important to maximize production to assure an opportunity to produce high yields and a profitable outcome. Wheat production has become very intensive to maximize yields. The most important phase of wheat production is getting off to a good start with variety selection, fertility, land preparation, and timely planting dates.
The optimal planting dates for wheat in Wayne County are October 20-30. Planting earlier can result in excessive growth, increased insect and disease infestations, and early spring freezes. Later planting can result in reduced tillering and poor root development, which can result in cold weather damage, and increased seeding rates.
Seeding rates for small grains can vary widely due to differences in seed quality, planting conditions, planting dates, and the planting equipment or system being used whether drilling or broadcast seeding. Information from the intensive wheat management guide from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute recommends planting 1.31 to 1.52 million seeds per acre. This is in the upper half of the “ideal” range which is 1.1 to 1.52 million seeds per acre.
The best way to ensure a correct small grain seeding rate is to calibrate the drill for the specific seed being planted. The most accurate way to calibrate is to base seeding rates on the desired number of seed per drill-row foot. This number does not vary across seed sizes or change depending upon seed treatments. For example, the Table shows that if a grower has a drill with 7.5-inch row spacing, the correct seeding rate is between 19 and 22 seeds per drill-row foot (assuming planting is on time, the seed has at least 90 percent germination, and planting is into a conventionally tilled seed bed). Remember seeding rates should be increased by 20% for no-till.
Variety selection is very important for yield potential, test weight, insect and disease resistance, and planting dates. The best source of unbiased public and private wheat variety performance information for NC is the Wheat Variety Performance and RecommendationsSmartGrains Newsletter which is released every July at NC State University and prepared by Randy Weisz in the Crop Science Department at NC State. This newsletter is based on the Official Variety Test Report or OVT (www.ncovt.com), and additional Cooperative Extension variety testing projects around NC. This newsletter groups wheat varieties into four categories: above average yielding, above average but less consistently yielding, average yielding, and below average yielding. It also gives heading date and pest resistance information about each wheat variety. Heading date also indicates when a wheat variety should ideally be planted. Medium and late heading wheat varieties tend to do best when planted at the start of the planting season, and consequently should be the first varieties a producer plants. Early and medium-early varieties tend to produce the highest yields when planted later in the fall.
Small grain variety performance can vary greatly from one year to the next. This makes it nearly impossible to pick a single best variety. Consequently, producers should plant three or more varieties every season. Growing at least three varieties will reduce the risk of freeze injury, pest damage, and other forms of crop failure and maximize the potential for a high-yielding crop.
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Agriculture and Natural Resources
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Wayne County Center
P. O. Box 68
Goldsboro, NC 27533