Managing Winter Wheat Fields with Variable Plant Stands

Reports coming in across Manitoba indicates winter wheat survival ranges from excellent to poor.  In talking with some agronomists, those fields that did not have adequate stubble (density and height) and therefore poor snow cover are faring the worse.  Seeding date also seems to be playing a role where the later seeded fields are also impacted by winterkill or injury.

What is an Optimum Plant Stand?  An optimum winter wheat plant stand consists of 20-30 plants per square foot. But there is good yield potential with a less than optimum plant stand.  Check out the following post on CropChatter “Winter Wheat Stand Assessments” at

What if I Have a Field with Small Patches of Poor Stands?  For fields with small patches of poor stands, the best option is to leave the field and focus on management strategies such as controlling broadleaf and grassy weeds in a weed control program, early application of nitrogen to encourage tillering, and increase disease scouting since weakened plants may be delayed in growth leading to increased risk of rust and fusarium head blight infection.

What if My Field Has Large Patches of Poor Stands?  If you have fields with larger patches with few or no plants, decisions become more difficult. The first option is to keep the field and adjust your management based on the thin stand. Farmers will have to make hard decisions on what further inputs to put into the crop. Fungicide applications for foliar disease and fusarium head blight may not pencil out at reduced yield potential.

To help manage the larger patches, a possible option may be to plant winter wheat into the larger gaps. Winter wheat planted in the spring will not vernalize so it will not produce a head. However, it will provide ground cover and compete with weeds until harvest.

For winter wheat fields whose stand is extremely variable with large patches of dead or weakened plants, replanting may become a more realistic option. If you are considering reseeding and before destroying any wheat fields, you will need to contact your local MASC insurance agent. For more information on winter wheat insurance information, please visit MASC’s website at:

There is also additional information on Crop Chatter if faced with re-seeding:

Submitted by:  Pam de Rocquigny, MAFRD Provincial Cereal Crops Specialist


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.