Planting date effect on winter wheat grain yield and winter survival

As we prepare for the 2009/10 winter wheat production year it is good time to reflect back on the problems that we encountered and devise practical solutions that we can integrate into our upcoming field season. The most widespread issue in our 2009 wheat crop was winter-kill. In our field assessments winter survival was impacted by four major factors, three of which growers have direct control over.

  1. The most obvious factor during a drive-by assessment was location within a field. Areas that were sheltered from driving winds as well as areas that held snow such as fence lines or shaded/wooded areas provided protection for crown tissue and increased winter survival.
  2. Planting depth: Variability across a field with no topographical effect was mainly driven by planting depth. Wheat that was planted at less than 0.5 inches demonstrated more winterkill than wheat planted at the 1 inch depth. Please see: (Recommendations for winter wheat establishment in 2009 for more information).
  3. Genetics (winter-hardiness) played a huge role in 2009. Winter survival ratings ranged from 16 to 69% at our Chilton WI variety trial site and 22 to 73% at our Arlington WI variety trial site. For specific information regarding varietal winter survival ratings please see Wisconsin winter wheat performance tests – 2009.
  4. Planting date: Results from our Lancaster and Arlington WI research sites show that yield and winter survival decreased as planting date was delayed (Table 1. and Image 1.). Given the delayed maturity of Wisconsin’s field corn and soybean crop and the fact that delayed planting decreases winter survival growers should put greater weight in 2009 on selecting winter-hardy wheat varieties.
Table 1. Planting date effect on grain yield and winter survival at Lancaster and Arlington WI, 2009.
Lancaster, WI
Planting date Grain yield Winter survival (%)
17-Sep 74.9 88.5
30-Sep 68.3 70.0
13-Oct 54.2 58.0
Arlington, WI
Planting date Grain yield Winter survival (%)
18-Sep 101.9 83.8
1-Oct 93.3 55.3
17-Oct 73.9 30.0
Figure 1. Planting date impact on winter survival at Arlington, WI in 2009.

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