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Spring is just around the corner and the longer days and warmer weather soon will have the winter wheat crop breaking dormancy, allowing rapid growth. This late winter period is an important one for wheat growers, and decisions made during this time could determine the success of the crop.
To be considered an adequate stand, wheat now should have 70 to 100 tillers per square foot. A field at the lower end of that range would need a low rate of nitrogen applied at Feeke’s 3, which typically occurs toward the end of February.
Wheat with more than 100 tillers per square foot is considered to have an excessive population and should not have an early application of nitrogen. Fields like these instead need a single application of nitrogen applied at Feeke’s 4-5, which usually occurs around mid-March.
If a split application is made, the first application should be made at Feeke’s 3, while the second should be made around Feeke’s 5, mid to late-March. Total nitrogen from both applications should be between 80 and 120 lbs/acre for no-till wheat and between 60 and 100 lbs/acre for conventional tilled wheat.
Here are some key numbers to look for when scouting the wheat crop throughout the spring. At emergence, there should be at least 25 plants per square foot. At tillering, there should be between 70 and 100 tillers per square foot to be considered an adequate stand. At heading, there should be between 60 and 70 heads per square foot, each with at least 35 kernels per head for optimum yield.
When determining plant density in wheat, first measure the length of the row needed to equal one square foot. For 7.5 inch rows, 19.2 inches of row are needed to equal one square foot. For 15 inch rows, 9.6 inches of row are needed to equal one square foot.
For more information on staging wheat or wheat management, contact the Hardin County Extension Service office, or go to the University of Kentucky Small Grains swebsite at www.uky.edu/Ag/Grain Crops/small_grains.htm.
Precision Agriculture Meeting. The Hardin County Extension Service has paired up with the Hardin County Young Farmer’s Association for a Precision Agriculture Meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Hardin County Extension Service office. Greg Halich, UK professor of agriculture economics, will be on hand to discuss the economic benefits of precision agriculture, focusing on individual row shut-offs and spray boom section control in particular. Dinner is provided, so please reserve your space by contacting the Extension office at 765-4121.
Matt Adams is a Hardin County Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources.