The 2007 farming season has been tough in North Carolina. If you are a grower who invested in high-priced fertilizer, you probably got little return because there was not enough rain to make the nutrients available.

The good news is you may have enough residual fertilizer in the soil to feed a winter wheat crop. To get the most out of this year’s fertilizer investment, take soil samples now to verify the extent of remaining nutrient reserves.

In spite of the poor season, rising wheat prices are sparking renewed interest in fall production. By sending soil samples to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services soil lab in the next few weeks, you can find out within five to seven working days how much fertilizer is still available for the next crop. The prompt sample turnaround available at this time of year provides plenty of time to evaluate soil nutrition needs before planting.

Wheat can be planted from late October until the end of November.

In light of last season’s freeze, you may want to avoid planting wheat too early this fall. If you must plant wheat early to take advantage of soil moisture conditions, consider planting medium to late-maturing varieties first. This will minimize the risk of freeze damage in the spring.

While you are collecting samples, October is also a good time to check for nematodes in fields where you may be planting susceptible crops next year. If prices remain high, and you decide to plant corn behind corn this year, stubby-root nematodes could become an issue.

For additional information or assistance, contact your NCDA&CS regional agronomist. Special 36-sample mailing containers are available for growers who submit large numbers of soil samples at one time. To find contact information for regional agronomists, visit www.ncagr.com/agronomi/rahome.htm, or call Kent Messick at (919) 733-2655.