The State Fair is in high gear and today is Sept. 7. A strong cold front moved through this past Friday and parts of the area have received fairly significant amounts of precipitation over the last week. Much of the immediate area was listed under the Moderate Drought category last Thursday but parts of eastern Barton, Rice, and Ellsworth Counties are a bit better and rated as Moderately Dry. Some producers question this since they are dealing with fields too wet for equipment while other missed out on the rains. It’s almost time to plant the 2015 winter wheat crop. Where are we in our area as we prepare to plant wheat?
• Many producers using tillage have already finished their most aggressive tillage and now, if they haven’t finished already, are left with shallow tillage for final seedbed preparation and a last bit of weed control. With the amount of rain received over the last week, and if the promised moderate temperatures hold, there is adequate soil moisture to establish the crop and develop a good root system for winter. The long range models indicate above normal precipitation for the fall/winter period over much of the state which should help.
• The latest rains will promote a flush of volunteer wheat which isn’t a bad thing since often volunteer wheat appears right before or even after seeding. There should be adequate time to eliminate volunteer wheat before emergence of the 2015 crop.
• No-tillage wheat producers should have a good soil moisture profile for wheat but need to take care and plant in a weed free seedbed with the recent rains. All wheat producers, but especially no-till producers also need to take care going back into fields in wheat this past year. The added cost of seed treatments for insects and diseases may be a wise investment with conditions this fall. Remember, if you are planning on gazing wheat, seed treatment labels normally prohibit grazing.
• There isn’t much to say about variety selection since most producers have already obtained their seed. Let’s just say that the 2014 harvest wasn’t a good barometer for variety selection and producers should always use several years of yield data over a variety of conditions when selecting a variety. And if you plant significant acreage never plant just one variety but at least two and preferably three. Also blends of several wheat varieties have advantages. The downside is that the seed cannot be kept.
• With the conditions of the 2014 harvest, if you kept seed for planting it would be wise to have it cleaned and treated. It’s an added expense but normally it more than pays for itself.
• Finally, while wheat prices could be higher and input prices haven’t exactly tanked, it is critical not to skimp on soil fertility. The best strategy is to soil test for soil pH and major nutrients (N, P, K) and apply needed nutrients according to yield targets. For those producers on lighter, sandier soils it would be a good idea to spend the extra money on testing for sulfur and chloride. It’s too late to do much about acid soil conditions this late but a producer can select a more acid tolerant variety or even avoid the field for wheat this fall altogether.
Naturally this column could go on a great deal longer. The take home for all of us is that as of this moment conditions are overall good for the 2015 to get off to a great start. But never forget this is Kansas.