Ice covered wheat fields coupled with strong corn and soybean prices and no field activity have growers and consultants considering tearing up their winter wheat fields. Before we get to crazy here are a few points to consider while we wait for spring to arrive.
- As you look across your wheat landscape vibrant green patches will be interspersed with drab brown areas. The brown areas do not necessarily indicate those plants are dead.
Growers and consultants can either reassess in a week or pull plants from the field and place in warm environments. Milk houses and kitchens work perfect. Root regrowth will appear from the crown and will appear as vibrant white roots as shown below.
If plans do not recover our critical threshold for turning over a field is 12 to 15 live plants per square foot. Below this threshold is an automatic replant. For more detailed information on assessing winterkill please view Wheat Stand Assessment, Winterkill Yield loss, and Nitrogen Application.
- Evaluate tiller number and make the N timing decisions. It is important to remember that the functional purpose of spring N is to 1. stimulate tillering and 2. provide crop nutrition. If ample tillering (> 70 tillers per square foot) has occurred growers can delay N applications up to pre-joint (Feekes 4-5; Zadoks 30). This practice will aid in minimizing early spring N loss. Applications of N made after this growth stage may lead to wheel track damage. If growers have < 70 tillers per square foot it is important to get across those fields as soon as possible to minimize yield loss due to low tiller/head counts. For more information on tiller counts and spring N timing please view my YouTube video entitled: Wheat Stand Assessment and Nitrogen Timing.
- Lastly the frost is coming out of the ground. Be cautious as you make your way out to the wheat fields to make your stand assessment or you will be spending your time or more importantly my time time digging out your truck!