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Planting the 2023 wheat crop
Dr. Victor Martin

The drought monitor report as of Tuesday, July 26 indicates worsening conditions in our area as we continue to see severe and extreme drought creep eastward. All of Pawnee and Stafford Counties are now in severe drought. Much of the western third of the state is experiencing an expansion in extreme or exceptional drought. The recent rains may help a bit. The six to ten-day outlook (Aug. 2 to 6) indicates a 80 to 90% chance of above normal temperatures and believe it or not, a 40 to 50% chance of below normal precipitation. The eight to 14-day outlook (Aug. 4 to 10) indicates more of the same. Last week’s rains and cooler temperatures are likely it for a while. Exactly what our summer crops don’t need. Today, what needs to be done and considered for planting the 2023 wheat crop.

First, what is the long-term outlook for temperature and precipitation? August is predicted to be hotter and drier than normal. The current outlook for September isn’t any better. So now, what do producers preparing to plant the 2023 wheat crop need to do? As always, there is no way to prepare a complete list in a short space.

• First, with lower wheat yields when planting wheat after wheat or if planting after a summer row crop, if yields aren’t what was fertilized for, a soil test might be a wise investment with high fertilizer prices. Not just phosphorus (P), or potassium for some, but even a profile Nitrate-N test around the second week of September. There may be adequate P, or even N, to allow for nothing more than some starter fertilizer. This is harder to get a handle on if planting after a summer row crop.

• With a less than ideal temperature and soil moisture outlook, producers may want to reconsider following a summer row crop, especially grain sorghum, sunflower, or even soybean. Corn might be a bit less risky but with the precipitation outlook, except with irrigation, fallow or wheat after wheat (a shorter fallow period) will have the best chance of success. There is just no way to know.

• With the 90-day outlook, weed control is critical as is minimizing tillage. Fields simply don’t have the moisture to lose. This is especially true when following a summer crop where moisture is likely to be even shorter. If possible, no till would be the preferable option. If tillage is needed, fields need to maintain as much surface residue as possible. There are several good tillage options here.

• Depending on your conditions, selecting an early maturing variety which will waste less water on vegetative growth is a better option. How early depends on the pest pressures in a field and what varieties fit.  

• While this may seem counter to accepted practices, if you have decent soil moisture earlier than the fly free date – plant. It’s critical to establish as extensive a root system as possible and set tillers. There is a risk of too much growth depleting soil water but planting into dry soil is a greater risk. If planting early, look for varieties with a level of resistance to Hessian fly and barley yellow dwarf. And make sure to eliminate any volunteer wheat (not a problem so far with the dry conditions) for about two weeks within two miles of the field to prevent wheat streak mosaic virus.

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