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Published August 23, 2010, 04:36 PM

NDSU Extension agronomist offers tips for planting winter wheat

FARGO - Now is a good time to think ahead and explore the potential of seeding winter wheat, according to a North Dakota State University Extension Service agronomist.

By: NDSU Extension Service, INFORUM

FARGO - Now is a good time to think ahead and explore the potential of seeding winter wheat, according to a North Dakota State University Extension Service agronomist.

The survival of winter wheat during the winter is enhanced when it is covered with snow during the coldest months of the year.

"Standing crop residues can effectively retain snow that may fall," says Joel Ransom, NDSU Extension agronomist for cereal crops. "Tall, erect flax and canola stubble works best, but any erect stubble that will retain snow is recommended. Planting winter wheat into wheat stubble is not ideal for disease reasons, but as long as disease management is planned, wheat stubble can be an acceptable residue."

Use a winter-hardy variety, especially if a producer is not planting into residue. Jerry, the latest NDSU release, and other varieties developed in North Dakota and Canada are among the most winter-hardy varieties available. Accipiter and Peregrine are new varieties from Canada that have proven winter hardiness. Varieties that were developed for Nebraska may not have sufficient winter- hardiness some years and should be used only if planted into standing stubble. They probably should not be primary winter wheat varieties for producers planting a lot of winter wheat.

Varieties developed in South Dakota and Montana tend to be intermediate in winter hardiness to those developed in North Dakota and Canada.

Variety performance data from the 2009 growing season is available at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/smgrains/ww%20circular%202009.pdf.

"Phosphorus (P) fertilization can play a role in winter hardiness, especially if soil tests are low for phosphorus," Ransom says. "Applying 10 to 15 pounds of P with the seed may improve winter survival some years. However, excessive nitrogen prior to winter freeze-up can reduce winter survival."

The optimum planting date for the northern half of the state is Sept. 1 through 15 and Sept. 15 through 30 for the southern half.

"The last practical date that winter wheat can be planted will depend on the weather because there must be enough growing degree days so that the seed can germinate and the crop vernalized by the spring," Ransom says. "Larger seedlings will overwinter better than a small seedling. Target the earlier portion of the recommended planting date range if planting into bare, fallow ground."

Adequate moisture for establishing winter wheat often is a concern because the soil profile usually is depleted of moisture in the fall. If there is little or no moisture in the soil's surface, planting shallowly (1 to 1.5 inches deep) and waiting for rain is recommended. Furthermore, these relatively shallow planting depths allow for faster emergence when temperatures are rapidly declining.

"Generally, a seeding rate of 900,000 to 1.2 million viable seeds per acre is adequate," Ransom says. "The higher seeding rate may be appropriate if planting late or when planting into poor seedbeds. Since winter wheat tends to tiller more profusely than spring wheat, 1.2 million seeds per acre is the upper end of the recommended seeding rate. Excessively high seed rates can result in more lodging by harvest time, particularly if you are using a taller variety, such as Jerry."

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