How can growers set themselves up for high yields when planting winter wheat this fall?
Typically, the conversation revolves around planting early, phosphorus, weed control, and planting depth, but RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson says growers need to add a new management consideration to the conversation — heads per square foot.
On this episode of the Wheat School, Johnson looks at findings from the Great Lakes Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) and what participating growers are learning about the impact heads per sq. foot (or metre) have on yield.
Johnson says growers are seeing a correlation between higher head counts and yield but it’s not as simple as just upping the seeding rate. At harvest 2021, he saw head counts as high as 120 heads per sq. foot (1,300 per sq. metre), but much of that potential was lost when heavy lodging toppled high yield hopes.
The story was much different in 2022. After a difficult fall planting season and a tough spring, head counts tended to max out at 80 heads/sq. foot. But with very little lodging the crop overall produced strong yields. (Story continues after the video.)
Based on a growing body of evidence, this fall Johnson is advising growers to sharpen their focus on the relationship between planting date and seeding rate. “We need to keep enough seeding rate for the seeding date to give you high yield potential, but don’t pump the rate too high because lodging can be an issue.”
Johnson says growers need to stick to standard procedure, increasing seeding rate as planting gets later, “but you need to keep it high enough in the early going so we have a good stand even if we don’t get the perfect fall. We still end up with enough heads per square foot.”
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