By Gregory Roth, Agronomist
With warm temperatures, the winter wheat development has advanced rapidly in some areas. This has led to some management concerns. One issue is the timing of nitrogen (N) application. If the wheat stand is thin, it might be good to get some N on early to help with spring tiller development before the crop begins jointing. If you routinely split N applications, an earlier N application this year in early March might be warranted to fulfill that first application. Generally, we feel that if the crop is well tillered, then N can be applied through Feekes GS 5 and we may see some yield benefit from the delayed N due to less potential for N loss due to leaching.
It would be good to monitor crop development this year a bit closer, since some wheat may reach this stage earlier than in previous years. This would also be a good time to scout fields for weeds, disease and aphids and take appropriate action if necessary.
Also, now is a good time to consider your N rate. Often N can be a limiting factor in achieving better wheat yields. Our basic spring N recommendation is 1 pound of N per bushel of yield potential.
Another issue is the increased risk of frost damage on wheat that begins jointing earlier than normal. Late spring frosts can damage wheat heads and cause deformities or sterility. It is somewhat rare to have this in our state but it can happen. The most common symptom we have seen in the past is a minor symptom of twisted heads that appear in the crop. For this reason, more southern states do not recommend planting early wheat varieties early. If you have some early varieties that were planted early, I would keep my eye on these fields if we get an episode of temperatures in the low 20s F later this spring.
Finally, if you or your customers have the potential for top yielding wheat, you may want to consider entering the 2017 National Wheat Yield Contest sponsored by the National Wheat Foundation. Last year’s winner was Leslie Bowman from Franklin County, who recorded a yield of 107.9 bushels per acre, which was 54.1% above the county average. National winners in this program are based on the percent above the county average yield.