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• It’s important, says Larson, that growers understand the physiology and development of wheat so they can realize as much yield as possible.
• In terms of management, growers usually focus on the springtime in terms of its significance to wheat management.
• But just as important are the fall and early spring when the wheat is going through the tillering stages.
MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY Extension agronomist Erick Larson explains the finer points of early season wheat management during the Central and South Alabama Wheat Expo, held in Montgomery, Ala.
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It’s important that producers make sure they have the resources to develop the optimal number of heads that the wheat crop can produce, says Larson, because that is an extremely important component in terms of overall yield capability.
“So not only is your springtime management important but also your fall and winter management,” he says.
Tillering, explains Larson, is the development of additional stems per every seed that you plant. “With wheat, we plant in terms of developing about 23 to 30 plants per square foot. But a good, high-yielding wheat crop should have somewhere in the neighborhood of up to 75 heads per square foot at harvest-time.
“We don’t plant to a harvestable population with wheat. We rely upon the wheat’s physiology and the resources out in the field to produce the optimal number of heads.
“We need to make sure those resources are out there because tillers contribute about 60 to 80 percent of your total heads which is 60 to 80 percent of your total yield.”
The bottom line, he says, is that the seeding rate is not very critical in wheat production.
“Obviously, you do want to get a stand, but you also want to have the resources there and hold back the competition that would prohibit that wheat crop from developing the optimal number of tillers based upon your field and growing conditions.”
Oftentimes, says Larson, a grower will drive by a field and take it for granted that it’s a good stand of wheat. In reality, you need to take a closer look between the rows.
“You might find there’s a need for fall weed control in your crop. You can have a very healthy stand with various winter annuals in the field, such as buttercup, henbit and annual bluegrass. A lot of things could be competing with wheat and taking up nitrogen and the other nutrients, as well as competing for light.