Extension Tips: Recommended adjustments for delayed planting of winter wheat

Story by Dipak K. Santra, Karen DeBoer, John Thomas and Robert Klein
University of Nebraska
sprouting grain
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How can you compensate for yield loss from delayed winter wheat planting due to recent rain in the Nebraska Panhandle?

The Nebraska Panhandle has experienced patchy but heavy rain in the past two to three weeks.

For example, the High Plains Ag Lab near Sidney, Neb., received 8 inches of rain the last three weeks of September.

The situation was similar in other parts of the southern and northern Panhandle.

The last storm dropped nearly 3 inches of rain in one day in the Alliance area.

Some fields are too wet to plant within the optimum seeding dates.

A few wheat fields, which were already planted, may have to be replanted due to erosion in the fields.

The rain has also delayed dry bean harvest, which indirectly pushes irrigated wheat planting back.

How late can you plant winter wheat?

Several factors determine optimum plnting dates.

In the panhandle the dates depend on elevation.

Producers can determine the ideal date for each field by knowing the elevation.

Using a starting point of Sept. 15, for 3,500 feet, add one day for each 100-foot decrease and subtract one day for each 100-foot increase in elevation.

Each producer should make changes to ensure the planting dates fit the conditions of his or her farm.

What will be the yield loss?

In the panhandle, the yield loss due to delayed planting can be 5-20 percent, depending on how late it was planted.

What adjustments can be made in order to compensate for yield loss?

One or more of the following steps can be used to compensate for most of the yield losses:

■ Use narrow row spacings.

■ A 5-8 inch row spacing is suggested over a 10-15 inch spacing. If you use a wider spacing, increase seeding rate by 1.5 times.

■ For each week after the optimum date for your farm (based on elevation), increase the per-acre seeding rate to:

▷ 10-15 pounds (150,000-225,000 seeds) for dryland (non-irrigated) winter wheat and

▷ 15-20 pounds (225,000-300,000 seeds) for irrigated winter wheat

If no-till seeding into row crop stubble more than one week later than the optimum seeding date, the seeding rate should be 90-120 pounds (1,350,000-1,800,000 seeds) per acre. Optimum seeding rate is 18 plants per foot of row for dryland (10- to 14-inch row spacing) and irrigated (6- to 8-inch row spacing). Optimum seeding rates for the Panhandle range from 600,000 to 900,000 viable seeds per acre for dryland and 1 million to 2.5 million viable seeds per acre for irrigated, which will be in ranges of 30-60 pounds and 90-180 pounds per acre, respectively, depending on seed weight and germination percent. Total seeds per acre are more critical than the pounds per acre. Therefore, calculate seeding rate in pounds per acre based on seed weight, row spacing, and germination percent of the seed lot.

■ Apply phosphorus with the seed. Use 20 pound phosphorus where no phosphorus is needed and increase by 20 percent for every 20 pounds per acre that would have been applied based on soil tests.

■ Use certified treated seed. ❖