With input costs such as fuel and fertilizer higher than in past years, wheat producers need to pay attention to details this growing season to produce a profitable crop. Below are some tips I believe are very important to producing a high-yielding and profitable crop this coming year.
• Select proper varieties. Select high-yielding wheat varieties that have a good disease package, including stripe and leaf rust resistance. Wheat varieties with good resistance to foliar diseases will likely eliminate the need for a foliar fungicide, which costs money.
• Control ryegrass. Control ryegrass in the fall before it competes with the wheat crop and robs yield potential. Hoelon and Osprey should do a good job of controlling ryegrass in the spring, but spraying late in the season defeats the purpose of trying to maximize yield. For good ryegrass control and optimum wheat yield, target Hoelon or Osprey applications for late November to early December.
• Timely nitrogen applications. Be timely with spring nitrogen applications. Apply the first application of nitrogen in late January or early February when conditions permit and the second application approximately three weeks later. Delaying the first nitrogen application may result in yield loss, especially when weather conditions delay the first application into late February or early March.
• Drainage, drainage, drainage. Select fields with adequate drainage and construct drainage furrows to carry excess water off the field. Wheat does not like “wet feet.”
• More on nitrogen. Apply 30 to 40 pounds of fall nitrogen to wheat when it follows rice, corn, or grain sorghum or when it is planted after Nov. 1. Producers may want to avoid applying fall nitrogen, but getting small wheat off to a good start is a key to having a successful wheat crop.
• Phosphorus and potassium. Apply phosphorus and potassium as required from soil test results. We can do everything right for our crop, but if phosphorus is limited, we are limiting our yield potential.
Jason Kelley is the Arkansas Extension wheat specialist.