Winter wheat has always been a major part of the overall farming operation on Missouri farms. Growing a high yielding and profitable crop will require planning on the part of the grower every year. The following are some simple steps that might ensure your success for the next crop:
Each and every producer needs to assess their own operation and make plans for a successful crop by selecting the best varieties for your area. A review of several years’ data will shows consistent performers. Yield is important, but other factors to consider include stand qualities, hardiness, height of straw for tonnage and drought tolerance, as well as insect and disease resistance. Top performers vary from year to year, reflecting changing environment, weather and planting dates. One variety might do well in one part of the state but not in another because of Missouri’s diverse topography. Visit with local producers to see which varieties they like in your area. In Hughesville, Adrian and Lamar in southwestern Missouri, yield leaders produced a mean average of over 75 bushels per acre. Results from the University of Missouri Variety Testing trials are available online at varietytesting.missouri.edu.
Fertility management is also an important part in producing the kinds of yields you are looking for in the future. Taking a recent soil test to find out what you are starting with, as well as what you need to add as inputs, will go a long way in a successful crop. The cheapest and most important of these is lime. If your soil ph range is below 5.5, you will not receive the full benefits of other fertilizers you apply. Wheat being a winter annual grass requires a ph range of 5.5 to 6.0 for maximum growth potential. Check your ENM requirements, found on your soil test, and match them with the local quarries’ ENM rating to find the best balance of your soil.
In the absence of a soil test, a middle-of-the-road fertilizer recommendation might include about 45 pounds of phosphorus and potassium, along with a split application of nitrogen. On most of our Missouri soils, 1 to 1.25 pounds of nitrogen is required per bushel yield of production. For a 60 bushel per acre yield, you would apply about 60 to 75 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre. Applying a 20-45-45 blend in the fall and following it up with 40 to 55 pounds of nitrogen in the spring might work well as an application rate.
Planting dates, rates and methods are important factors when seeding wheat. To avoid the Hessian fly, which is found in Missouri, planting of wheat should be after Oct. 15 to ensure a good stand. The Hessian fly is potentially the most destructive insect in planted wheat. If you plan on planting earlier than this, plan to use it for pasture, balage and/or a cover crop, and look for a variety of wheat that is resistant to the Hessian fly. Planting rates might vary depending on your soil type and location. Just what is the true potential of your soil to produce? Drilling rates of a bushel per acre are common, and broadcasting might increase the application rate to 1.5 bushels per acre. Good seed-to-soil contact will increase the potential of seed to survive.
Do not overlook the value of the straw. Often we have seen the true profit from a wheat crop being the square bales of straw sold to other livestock producers. Keep in mind the more you remove, the more fertility you will have to put back to keep the soil strong and healthy.