What’s left for producers preparing to plant the 2016 wheat crop after last week’s column? Naturally there’s plenty including variety selection.
• Fertility – Since fertilizers are a major input cost and prices have not decreased even with lower grain and fuel prices, producers really need to know where they are at in terms of soil fertility. If yields were good and/or fields received the heavy rains earlier this year, soil nitrogen levels may be low. Producers should examine how much N was removed in grain this past harvest if planting wheat after wheat, approximately 1.25 N lb/bushel of grain, or estimate how much they expect to remove if following a summer crop such as corn or grain sorghum. If trying to follow soybeans they may want to provide a nitrogen credit. They need to factor in how much fertilizer they applied for the previous crop and if they think rainfall may have leach nitrogen below the work zone. The best option is a profile N test to 24 inches. For other nutrients, a standard soil sample nutrient test is a good investment. For most producers, especially on lighter (sandier soils) it would be beneficial to check soil levels for P, K, S, and Cl. For phosphorus, it may be that after years of broadcast applications, only a little starter P is in order.
• Weeds – knowing the weed pressure in a field is critical to a successful crop. If you have problems with winter annual grass weeds or rye, a Clearfield wheat may be quite beneficial. As always starting with a weed free seedbed is crucial.
• Seed treatments – Unless grazing, treating wheat seed for insects and diseases is a good investment. These treatments are off label if producers are grazing wheat. While not controlling all pests it certainly gets the wheat off to a good start and is especially important in no-till or conservation tillage situations.
• Volunteer wheat – Controlling volunteer wheat within a mile or two of your field is crucial in helping to avoid a myriad of problems but especially wheat streak mosaic virus transmitted by the wheat curl mite and even diseases like barley yellow dwarf. The difficulty often is controlling volunteer wheat two weeks prior to planting. This often depends on rainfall and also your neighbor controlling his/hers. That brings us to variety selection which is often difficult unless you know what the growing season will bring. As this will take more space than is left, we will tackle that topic next week.