“We have tested a system in which growers can plant in late September or early October, usually 10-14 days ahead of recommended planting dates and still get good yields and quality,” he adds.

For growers planning to plant wheat much earlier than usual, the North Carolina State specialist says to follow three basic steps:

1.) Plant at a 2/3 normal seeding rate.

2.) Plant only seed treated with an insecticidal seed treatment like GauchoXT or Cruiser/Dividend.

3.) Plant by the last week in September in the Piedmont and by the first 10 days in October in the Tidewater Region.

Cowger, who works with USDA’s Agriculture Research Service at North Carolina State University, has tracked scab-related wheat yield losses for several years.

“Variety resistance is the best defense against scab,” she says. “A number of high-yielding varieties with good levels of scab resistance are now available to North Carolina growers. In addition, planting at least three varieties with different heading dates is a good hedge against yield loss,” she adds.

With different heading dates, all the wheat will not flower at the same time. Cowger stresses growers should also avoid planting late, because that means late flowering and more risk of scab problems in late spring, when temperatures and, often, more rainfall increase the risk of scab.

In 2011, Cowger says, there was very little scab anywhere in the region. Though not the only reason wheat performed well in the Upper Southeast this year, not losing yield to scab clearly contributed to high grain yields and uniformly good quality across the region.

Though not directly related to varietal selection, different varieties react differently to stress, including competition from weeds and grasses. It may be easier to plant wheat in the fall, forget about it until spring, and manage weeds at that time, but that scenario is unlikely to give any wheat variety its best chance to achieve high yield and good quality.

Letting management slip in the weeks after planting can be a yield robber, especially with the crop price stakes elevated this year.

Sometimes, when growers get row crop harvest going in the fall, they don’t think about weed control in wheat until the spring, and that’s often too late.

Unpredictable spring weather and weeds hardening off in the winter can mean a tougher time managing weeds in the spring. The main benefit of a fall herbicide application is decreased early weed competition, which can pay off in higher yields.

The best time to manage Italian ryegrass is in December. At the end of the season, less weed seed and dockage mean a premium price at the elevator.

Back to back high wheat yields will be a life-saver for some Upper Southeast growers, making up for below average corn and soybean yields, a result of prolonged heat and drought throughout much of the growing season the past two years.

To give wheat the optimum chance for achieving high yields and quality Weisz and Cowger urge growers to consider multiple performance factors before choosing a variety.

rroberson@farmpress.com