There were some good reasons to grow wheat again this year. Many farmers I spoke with said 2017 produced another excellent crop. Cool conditions and adequate moisture in early May and a dry late May and early June helped. What else goes into making the farm more profit?
• Crop rotation — wheat adds a third crop to our rotation. Generally we get a 10% yield bump to the next crop in the rotation. And with a three crop rotation we reduce disease and insect pressure for all crops.
• Cover crop — wheat can be a good cover crop. We can plant it after soybean harvest, unlike other cover crops. Even plant after corn, but be aware that Fusarium head blight will likely be much worse if you are planning on grain harvest.
• Wheat, like oats and cereal rye will help hold onto nitrates. If we want we can graze wheat, or if we get a good stand and have good prospects we can keep it to harvest as grain — this may be our perfect cover crop.
BMPs for wheat production
• Planting date — The fly free date in Ohio is also our agronomic trigger for the best planting dates. From recent experience we probably want to plant within the week to 10 days after the date. Long-term data says we should get about the same yield if we plant in the 14-day window following fly free. Fly free dates in Ohio range from Sept. 22 in northern Oho to Oct. 5 at Southpoint.
• Application of phosphorus — we can reduce the chance of nutrient movement by applying the fertilizer in the spring into the growing crop. If for example we need 90 pounds of P2O5, we also get 20 to 35 pounds of N along with that (assuming MAP 11-52-0 or DAP 18-46-0). This puts on the N when we need it in the spring and gives us a growing crop to apply phosphorus to.
• Variety selection — Get good genetics with excellent disease resistance. Pierce Paul, our OSU Wheat and Corn Pathologist, says that to reduce the threat of Fusarium head blight and to get good yields you should choose a variety with high resistance to head scab and plan to apply a fungicide if conditions require.
• Row width — We have possibilities. Using a drill we can plant at 6-10 inches. And many of us have our split row soybean planters in 15-inch rows. It gets a cover out there and doesn’t take too great of a yield hit.
Some Ohio wheat producers are interested in growing soft red winter wheat in 15-inch rows to utilize a more precise planting implement to reduce equipment inventory, reduce wheat seed costs, sow a cover crop, establish a forage crop, or to Modify Relay Intercrop (MRI) soybeans into wheat.
• Regarding relay intercropping, long-term data from Steve Prochaska and Jason Hartschuh at OSU’s Crawford County farm show an average yield of 75 bushels per acre wheat and 31 bushels per acre soybeans in their relay intercropping work — not bad for two crops in one year.