This year, wheat yields were extremely high across Ohio. In the Ohio Wheat Performance Test (https://ohiocroptest.cfaes.osu.edu/wheattrials/default.asp?year=2023), grain yield averaged between 86 and 126 bu/acre across five Ohio counties. Cool temperatures and adequate subsoil moisture led to a long grain fill period. The long grain fill period coupled with low disease resulted in high-yielding conditions. Mother nature certainly helped us out in 2023; however, fall wheat management is important to set your crop up for success.
Now that we’ve entered mid-September, wheat planting is just around the corner. Here are our key management strategies for this fall:
- Plant within the 10-day period starting after the county fly-safe date. It can be tempting to plant wheat before your county’s Hessian fly-safe date (Figure ; however, the best time to plant wheat is the 10-day period starting the day after the fly-safe date. Planting before the fly-safe date increases the risk of insect and disease problems including Hessian fly and aphids carrying Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus. Our wheat planting date field trials have shown no yield benefit of planting prior to the county fly-safe date.
- Select high-yielding varieties with high test weight, good straw strength, and adequate disease resistance. Do not jeopardize your investment by planting anything but the best-yielding varieties that also have resistance to the important diseases in your area. Depending on your area of the state, you may need good resistance to powdery mildew, Stagonospora leaf blotch, and/or leaf rust. Avoid varieties with susceptibility to Fusarium head scab. Plant seed that has been properly cleaned to remove shriveled kernels and treated with a fungicide seed treatment to control seed-borne diseases.
- Optimum seeding rates are between 1.2 and 1.6 million seeds/acre. For drills with 7.5-inch row spacing, this is about 18 to 24 seeds per foot of row. When wheat is planted on time, the actual seeding rate has little effect on yield, but high seeding rates (above 30 seeds per foot of row) increase lodging and risk of severe powdery mildew development next spring.
- Planting depth is critical for tiller development and winter survival. Plant seed 1.5 inches deep and make sure planting depth is uniform across the field. No-till wheat seeded into soybean stubble is ideal, but make sure the soybean residue is uniformly spread over the surface of the ground. Shallow planting is the main cause of low tiller numbers and poor winter survival due to heaving and freezing injuries. Remember, you cannot compensate for a poor planting job by planting more seeds; it just costs more money.
- Follow the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, and Alfalfa (https://agcrops.osu.edu/FertilityResources/tri-state_info).
- Apply 20 to 30 lb of actual nitrogen per acre at planting to promote fall tiller development. A soil test should be completed to determine phosphorus and potassium needs. Wheat requires more phosphorus than corn or soybean, and soil test levels should be maintained between 30-50 ppm (Mehlich-3 P) for optimum production (Table 1). Do not add phosphorus if soil test levels exceed 50 ppm.
Table 1. Wheat phosphorus recommendations from the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, and Alfalfa.
Soil potassium should be maintained at levels of 100-130 and 120-170 ppm (Mehlich-3 K) on sandy soils (CEC < 5 meq/100 g) and loam/clay soils (CEC > 6 meq/100 g), respectively. If potassium levels are low, apply K2O fertilizer at planting, depending on soil CEC and yield potential (Table 2).
Table 2. Wheat potassium recommendations from the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, and Alfalfa.
Soil pH should be between 6.3 and 7.0. In Ohio, limed soils usually have adequate calcium and magnesium.