By Jason Hartschuh Crawford County Extension and Harold Watters
There were some good reasons to grow wheat again this year. Many farmers we spoke with said 2018 produced another very good crop. Our warm spring conditions cut back on yield but quality was excellent. 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” was a new term for me this spring. This was planted after last year’s soybeans and planned to be a cover crop ahead of corn. Wheat, like oats and cereal rye will help hold onto nitrates. If we wanted we could even 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: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 that date in your area. 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. Do plant into moisture, even if it’s a little deeper than you might normally plant. Last year we had some folks plant “dry” hoping for a rain that came too late. We want rapid germination.
- Application of phosphorus: we can reduce the chance of nutrient movement by applying the fertilizer in the spring into the growing wheat 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.
- 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 choose a variety with high resistance to Head scab and plan to apply a fungicide if conditions require. The OSU wheat trials just came out, check the yield numbers AND the disease ratings: https://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/wheattrials/.
- Row width — we have possibilities. Using a drill we can plant at 6 to 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 Jason Hartschuh at OSU’s Crawford County farm show an average yield of 75 bushel per acre wheat and 31 bushels per acre soybeans in their relay intercropping work — not bad for two crops in one year. Jason also says that twin row 30-inch wheat looks as good yield-wise as 15-inch row wheat and gives a bigger target to get beans into.