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Manage that wheat crop by planning for good things to happen

Manage that wheat crop by planning for good things to happen

By Mike Veenema CCA-ON, 4R NMS
Crop Sales Specialist
AGRIS Co-operative - Chatham
Wanstead Farmers Co-operative

This fall has been favourable for wheat planting and development. Early October gave us a great window to get the crop planted in ideal time and conditions. Wheat is a good addition to a more complex rotation. It is never too early to complete crop plans to continue to manage the crop into 2021.

A good plan includes all aspects of crop management

This fall we would have used current soil tests to make a 4R compliant fall fertility program to support early crop development and tillers. A weed control plan in place to get ahead of resistance weeds with different modes of action.

We can start to make plans for spring

At the top the list will be managing the nitrogen application. Wheat is extremely responsive to nitrogen. Nitrogen application rates and timing are instrumental in subsequent crop development depending on the growth status in the spring. Thick vigorous growth with several tillers per plant will suggest we need to maybe lower N rates and delay application in an attempt to reduce tiller numbers. Wheat can only mature 2 tillers; any more than that leads to poorly developed tillers and delayed maturity in the crop canopy. In contrast, thin stands with poor tiller development would indicate the need for higher rates of nitrogen applied as soon as possible after green-up. Either scenario can be planned for ahead of time and the choice of which plan to use will be dictated by crop conditions in the spring. We can then simply decide on which plan to execute and save some time.

All nitrogen plans will include sulphur

We are receiving less than 6 lbs. of sulphur per acre per year from rainfall each year. Prior to the 1970s, we used to receive upwards of 25 lbs. of sulphur per acre per year. Clean air environmental policies have reduced sulphur emissions into the environment. The total sulphur uptake for 120-bushel wheat crop requires there to be 30 lbs. per acre of sulphur supply available from a combination of natural soil supply and additions from applied fertility.

Manganese deficiencies

We are seeing more manganese deficiencies showing up which is best fixed with foliar applications in the spring.

Crop growth in spring can also give insight as to potential disease risk as thick canopies are often favourable for early disease development. Once again plans that include plant health solutions can be put in place ahead of time with a full discussion on options available well ahead of the critical timing application window.

Fungicide timing

The timing on fungicides is divided into 3 distinct phases -- T1 tillering, T2 flag Leaf and T3 head protection from Fusarium head blight. The incidence and severity of diseases at each growth stage determines the course of action. All can be planned for ahead of time during this winter. The execution of a plan depends on what we see in the crop at the time of a particular growth stage. We follow integrated pest management thresholds to determine the course of action. One of the tools we use to assess the risk of head blight infection for T3 timing is the DONcast weather model offered by WIN.

Cover crops

Planning the use of cover crops is also a consideration. The traditional use of red clovers applied during the early spring season on frost is one option. Post-harvest is also a great time to establish a host of different cover crops. Effective cover crops need 6 weeks of growth before a killing frost to produce significant biomass.

Reward market rallies

Lastly, let's not forget to reward market rallies and good prices. The following charts show yields over the past 12 years in our trading area. Good prices not only support planting lots of wheat acres; the price is also suggesting you sell the crop while you are planting it. The data also suggests that wheat yields vary from 8 to 14% from the average in any given year. The idea of forward contracting brings an element of risk as there may be years and field conditions that result in failure to establish a viable crop stand. Everyone has different levels of risk acceptance.

Review production and determine the lowest and highest yield years may give a comfort level in forward contracting a portion of the crop while the prices are strong.


Understand opportunities and options

Crop planning is a forward-looking, proactive approach to understanding opportunities and options.

There are many options and considerations for managing wheat. Markets have been favourable and it is wise to get a marketing plan together as well.

Contact your AGRIS or Wanstead crop specialist to ensure you have effective plans in place to make the most of your 2021 wheat crop.

Plan for good things to happen.

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