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Wheat and barley production tips

Can anhydrous ammonia hurt soil?

A number of critics have asserted that anhydrous ammonia will harden soil and “burn up” organic matter in soil. However, when researchers at Kansas State University measured the effects of four nitrogen fertilizers on various soil properties after ten years of annual applications, the results provided evidence that those fertilizers neither compact nor burn soils. There is no data that suggests that anhydrous has any negative effect on soil properties, according to U of M Extension soil scientist George Rehm.  If applied properly, anhydrous ammonia continues to be an excellent source of N for the production of corn and small grains.

Seed treatments beneficial

Seed treatments have been clearly shown to get crops off to a great start with better stands.  Such treatments are particularly important for fields with a history of narrow rotation and disease; seed stressed by weather, disease, or soil conditions; and seed with germination rates lower than 90%.  However, seed treatments will not revive extremely poor seed or prevent scab infection.  Any costs invested in wheat seed treatment will be recovered by a yield response of as low as one bushel per acre.  Your county extension office is a good source of objective information with respect to performance details when considering the wide selection of treatment products on the market.

But don’t overtreat

This applies both to seed amount and to dosage.  Going beyond the recommended levels for seed treatments can actually reduce germination and harm the crop. Furthermore, industry representatives and crop scientist typically do not recommend the storage of treated seed, with its risks of animals or people coming in contact with the treated seed; reduced germination; and contamination and sanitation concerns in the storage area. Treat only as much as necessary, and any treated seed left over after planting can be used for cover crop seeding later on in the same year.

Hedge your varieties

Recently in the Red River Valley, the preferred variety has been 2375, which rates the highest for scab tolerance among the currently-available varieties.  But, 2375 is susceptible to other issues, such as lodging, shattering, and competitiveness with weeds.  It is also prone to several leave diseases like tan spot and Septoria.

In 1996, a good way to insure against potential problems is to grow a minimum of three different varieties which have a range of genetic backgrounds and heading times.  No one variety will perform the best every year and under every possible condition; it is recommended to have a mix of varieties with some that produce well under stress conditions along with others that have good results in ideal conditions.

Stored grain attention

Insects and mold are fairly inactive while the temperature of stored grain is below 40 degrees, according to U of M Extension engineer Bill Wilcke.  However, as warmer weather approaches, the management of stored grain will demand more attention, particularly if the grain was not dried completely prior to winter’s arrival.  It is recommended that stored grain be checked and its moisture and/or temperature corrected before the weather warms up in the spring.  Binned grain should have an approximate moisture level of 14% for storage into summer, according to Wilcke.  A good source of information with respect to detailed grain storage and drying is your county extension office.

Optimum stand guidelines

Aim for the following planting guidelines in order to improve the likelihood of getting the best stand possible for wheat:  a plant population from 1.2 million to 1.3 million plants per acre, or 27 to 30 plants per square foot.

Your seeding rate should be calculated on the basis of the number of seeds per pound, the seed’s germination rate, and adjusted for historic stand losses in the field.

An example for calculating the planting rate for wheat:

Desired population is 1,125,000 stems per acre at harvest.   Historic field stand loss is 10%. Seed lot germination is 95%.  Seed lot has a seed count of 15,000 seeds per pound.

Thus, 15,000 x 0.95 = 14,250 viable seeds per pound.

1,125,000 seeds x 110% = 1,237,500 viable seeds needed per acre.

1,237,500 seeds / 14,250 seeds/lb = 87 pounds per acre seeding rate, or 28 total seeds per square foot.

Planting depth important

The planting depth for seed should be between 1 and 1½ inches. Planting closer to the surface of the soil is conducive to quick emergence and helps to establish a quick stand that can compete against weeds. Planting too deep often causes problems.  Depth control measures on seeding equipment, such as depth gauge bands; a firmer seedbed; and a planting speed between 3 to 4 mph will also be helpful.

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