Top Tips for Seeding Winter Wheat

With harvest well underway in Manitoba, producers thoughts are not only on harvest operations but also on the upcoming seeding operations for their winter wheat crop. When seeding winter wheat, here are 6 tips to keep in mind.

1.       Stubble – Ensuring winter survival means seeding into standing stubble that will catch and hold snow.  Stubble needs to hold 4 inches or more of snow. This can be accomplished either with stubble providing a lot of “short sticks” or few “taller sticks” (see table below).  Note that this is the amount of standing stubble required after seeding. Table 1. Recommended stubble height and density to achieve suitable snow catch for winter survival (adapted from Winter Cereals Canada).

Stubble height (inches)

4″

6″

8″

10″

12″

Sticks/sq. ft.

20

13

10

8

6

 

2.       Weed Control –  It is important that any green vegetation be completely controlled prior to seeding winter wheat to eliminate the risk of Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus.  Control with herbicide all volunteer host plants (immature cereals) and regrowth at least 2 weeks prior to planting winter wheat.

3.       Seeding Date  – Healthy, vigorous plants must be established before freeze-up to attain maximum cold tolerance.  The goal is to have plants with a well-developed crown and about 3 leaves going into the winter.  Research has demonstrated that seeding during the period from late August to early September (approx. August 25 to September 10) consistently produces the best crops in terms of both yield and quality.

4.       Seeding Depth –  A reoccuring question in regards to seeding depth is should you seed into moisture?  The answer is no.  Winter wheat should be seeded less than 1” deep even in dry seedbeds.  As little as 1/3 inch of rain is enough to successfully establish a winter wheat since it exhibits very little seed dormancy so shallow seeding will allow the seeds to take advantage of small rainfall events.

5.       Seeding Rate – Seed at higher rates to maximize yield, ensure adequate plant establishment and enhance weed competition.  Typically farmers should be aiming for a final plant stand of at least 30 plants established per square foot in the fall.  There are three critical pieces of information farmers need to determine to calculate the seeding rate needed to obtain the desired final plant stand:  the target plant stand, 1000 kernel weight and expected seed survival, which includes % germination and seedling mortality.  Using this information in the equation below will determine the most accurate seeding rate to achieve the desired plant stand.

Seeding Rate  (lb/acre) = target plant stand per ft2 x 1000 kernel weight in grams % expected seedling survival* x 10

* Expected seedling survival is used in its decimal form (90 per cent = 0.9).

6.       Variety  Selection  – There are many traits to consider when selecting a winter wheat variety. Although yield is generally the first factor considered, farmers should also compare varieties for standability, disease resistance and other agronomic factors.  SEED MANITOBA is an excellent starting place for evaluating the current and new varieties coming to the marketplace (www.seedmb.ca).

Submitted by:  Pam de Rocquigny, Provincial Cereal Crops Specialist, Manitoba Agriculture

For more information on the production and management of winter cereals, please visit Manitoba Agriculture’s website at: http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/cereals/bfg01s01.html

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