Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Is it too late to plant winter wheat?"

Kari Lewis
With the moisture that our area received last week, planting winter wheat is looking like more of a possibility for some producers.  The recommendation for winter wheat is to plant early enough in the fall to allow four to six weeks of growth prior to dormancy.  This four to six-week period provides enough time for the winter wheat to become rooted, established, and produce tillers.  If winter wheat is planted too late, the crop will be more susceptible to winter kill as there will be less tillers and a shallower root system.  One advantage to later seeding winter wheat is that the potential is decreased for infestation by diseases dependent on a ‘green bridge’ such as Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus.
Late seeded winter wheat should have an increased seeding
rate to compensate for potentially reduced tillering and
increased susceptibility to winter kill.  Photo by Kari Lewis.

Typically, a planting rate of 40 to 60 lbs/acre of pure live seed is adequate to establish a crop of dryland winter wheat.  However, this seeding rate should be increased both in cases of later than normal seeding, such as this year, and in high residue no-till systems.  This increased seeding rate is to compensate for reduced tillering in these scenarios.

When considering which winter wheat variety to plant, be sure to take advantage of the variety trial data available from the Montana Agricultural Experiment Stations.  The local experiment stations test numerous winter wheat varieties (along with other crops). The varieties are evaluated by year and the data summarized over the past six years.  Varieties are evaluated for yield, test weight, height, heading date, protein %, winter survivability, and a solid stem score (which indicates the variety’s sawfly resistance). 

The Western Triangle Ag Research Center, which is located just east of the Valier exit on I-15, has cooperating farms where the varieties are evaluated.  These cooperating farms are north of Cut Bank on the Bradley farm, north of Devon at Brian Akelstad’s, east of Brady on Aaron Killion’s farm, and northeast of Choteau at the Inbody Farms.  The Northern Ag Research Center out of Havre cooperates on winter wheat trials with the McKeever Farms in Chouteau County and Cederberg Farm in Blaine County. 

In addition to the extensive data that the research centers provide, there is a Montana Agricultural Experiment Station Wheat Variety Release Committee that summarizes the data and provides recommendations for each region in Montana.  The committee is composed of 16 members including a wheat breeder, a plant pathologist, a cereal forage quality scientist, an entomologist, a weed scientist, a cropping systems specialist, six Research Center agronomists, one manager from the Montana Foundation Seed program and the Montana Seed Growers Association, one Montana Wheat and Barley Committee member, and one representative of the Montana Ag Experiment Station Advisory Board, who work together to make variety recommendations for specific regions.

For winter wheat or other crop variety data, check out the website,  The Southern Ag Research Center has a very user-friendly variety selection tool available as well on their website,  The Montana Wheat Production Guide, available at, details seeding rates as well.

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