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2021 wheat crop decisions need to be made
Dr. Victor Martin

The Drought Monitor is mostly unchanged again this week. Our area is still abnormally dry. And we haven’t become drier. Last week’s precipitation didn’t benefit all areas around Barton with the precipitation heavier east and south of Great Bend. Anything since Tuesday won’t show up until this Thursday. However, the areas to our south and southeast are pretty much out of drought. The six to ten-day outlook (Feb. 10 to 14) indicates well-below normal temperatures and a neutral precipitation outlook. The eight to 14 day outlook (Feb. 12 to 18) indicates a strong chance of continued below normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. Looks like the groundhog’s prediction was correct.

Two brief topics for today:  What should be happening with the current winter wheat crop? And why don’t we grow spring wheat in Kansas? The current winter wheat crop: The forecast for well-below normal temps this week will slow down green up and development of the 2021 wheat crop but it’s certainly should be a time of increased activity.

• It’s already the second week of February with longer days and soon increasing temperatures. Wheat will start to take off and should be jointing, first hollow stem, in about a month or so. It’s time to consider topdressing wheat with nitrogen and some producers already have started. It’s not as simple as it sounds. Producers need to evaluate the stand in each field and take an educated guess as to yield potential while realizing many things can go wrong between now and mid-June. It’s not merely evaluating the stand and tillering but also soil moisture status while looking at the 30 and 90 day weather outlooks. Fortunately prices for wheat are much better than a year ago. Unfortunately fertilizer prices are going up. Once a yield estimate is determined the next item is:

• It’s best to apply nitrogen before the wheat takes off if possible to minimize the possibility of leaf burn, especially if using solution (liquid) nitrogen sources such as 28% UAN. It’s less critical if using broadcasting dry urea. And it would be nice if it could be applied before a snow or rain as that would help move the nitrogen into the soil and the root zone.

• Also important is weed control which can be applied along with solution nitrogen fertilizer. This not only eliminates an extra pass over the field but increases herbicide activity on emerged weeds. For certain herbicides, it’s important to wait until tillering is complete before applying. And it’s even more important for producers with thinner stands as thinner stands increase the opportunity for weed pressure. Finally, care should be taken with residual herbicides so they don’t interfere with a double-crop or other rotational consideration.

• Lastly, soon it will be time to monitor for insects such as cutworm and a little later aphids. Having to spray will be a function of insect pressure, growing conditions and overall plant health. So far the weather hasn’t been conducive for cutworm but that can change rapidly.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207, or