Flint on Crops: Time to Scout Wheat Fields

    There are many tasks and challenges for agricultural producers this time of year, including the decisions that must be made soon concerning the new farm bill. I should mention that we are sponsoring a farm bill meeting for growers in this area at the Kosciusko Extension Office on the 12th of this month, which is Thursday of this week. Dr. John Michael Riley from the Mississippi State University Department of Agricultural Economics will be here to present information on the farm bill and to visit with producers following the meeting. We will start at 9 am at the Extension located at 715 Fairground Rd. in Kosciusko.

    Getting back to topic, I want to remind wheat producers that we at the time when the most important practices for wheat production should be performed. Wheat has reached the stage when we should be preparing for and applying fertilizers to support the high yields we have come to expect from wheat. Growers need to scout fields and get ready to apply weed control measures and fertilizers as well as insect and disease management practices as needed. 

    The two most immediate tasks that should be performed are of course those of weed control and fertilization. As for weed control we need to scout fields for the presence of weeds, with the most common considerations being those of garlic and onions, ryegrass, and the several species of broadleaf weeds that are commonly found in wheat. While garlic, onions and most broadleaf species can be controlled with a product like Harmony or one of its generic equivalents these products will not control ryegrass or annual bluegrass.

    When ryegrass and broadleaf weeds are both present a wider spectrum product may be needed, however some of these products are not recommended for garlic and onions. When garlic and onions are present it may be necessary to defer to a product that will deal with them since these weeds produce bulblets that can lead to heavy discounts or rejection at the elevator. I suggest you consult with an experienced fieldman if you have this difficult combination.

    The other pending issue is fertilization. Given that the issues of soil pH, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients have been supplied according to a recent soil analysis the main consideration will rates and timing of nitrogen. The basic principle is that when wheat is growing well and beginning to green up at this point something like a third to half of the N should be applied now and then when the “joint” begins to move in the lower stem the balance of the N can be applied.

    However if the wheat is small and slow in development about sixty to seventy percent of the N should be applied now to get it going. Then the balance can be applied after jointing. I like to include ammonium sulfate as part of the N, preferably in the first application, with around one hundred pounds of this form of nitrogen which contains 21 percent sulfur in the readily available form of sulfate.

    Sulfur helps to increase the use efficiency of the N and aids in the formation of protein. Remember that each bushel of wheat yield requires something like two pounds of N. When N is applied as urea in warm weather the addition of a urease inhibitor is a good idea to reduce N loss.

    The only insects that are likely to be encountered in wheat now are aphids which can transmit barley yellow dwarf disease and should be controlled with a low rate of a pyrethroid insecticide. The only disease we have had reports of so far has been stripe rust near Pine Bluff, AR a little over a week ago. Disease management in wheat is a fairly complex subject which involves varying levels of disease tolerance among varieties, effectiveness of various products, timing of applications, and most importantly the correct identification of diseases.

    I always include drainage in any discussion about wheat so be careful to keep drains open and install more furrows if needed to correct wet spots. Wet areas can significantly reduce yields and waste fertilizers. Start spending time in your wheat fields and call us if you need help.

    Thanks for your time.


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