Wheat growers in North Carolina are getting interested in a very early planting system, and there is no mystery as to why.

“It could allow you to plant wheat before soybean harvest,” said Randy Weisz, North Carolina Extension small grains specialist. “It could be ideal for growers who plant wheat following corn and would like to finish planting before starting soybean harvest.”

In North Carolina, the ideal dates for planting wheat roughly coincide with the beginning of soybean and cotton harvest.

“Consequently, wheat planting is often delayed until cold wet weather has set in,” he said. “Wheat development suffers.”

Here’s why: Up to 85 percent of the yield in any given wheat field is made up of grain heads formed on tillers that developed in warm fall weather.

“When planting is delayed, there is less time for fall tillers to develop and this results in reduced yield potential,” he said.

This is especially true for no-till.

“Wheat planted no-till tends to grow and tiller more slowly than when planted in conventionally tilled seedbeds, especially in Coastal Plain and Tidewater soils,” said Weisz. “Planting early is one way to help no-till seedlings make up for this slower growth and produce more fall tillers.”

If wheat is planted before the start of soybean or cotton harvest, it can take full advantage of the warm tiller-inducing fall weather.