If you're going to grow wheat, you need to treat it like a crop. That's the best advice from Brian Glenn, a north Alabama farmer who shared some of his wheat production experience at the recent Alabama Corn and Wheat Conference in Huntsville.
“In the past, too many of us have thrown wheat out there, come back in the spring, and if it looks as though it might make a little bit, we'll put on some nitrogen and then harvest it. If it doesn't look that good, we'll burn it down and plant something else on it,” says Glenn.
Like with any crop, it starts with planting, he says. “Most of the wheat I have seen planted this year has been planted with a drill. If you're going to plant wheat year in and year out, buy a drill and plant with a drill. If you're planting wheat for only one year, it's probably better — for economic reasons — that you broadcast or disk in wheat,” he says.
Glenn adds that he has been using tramlines in wheat production for about 10 years.
“At the very minimum, I'm going to make four trips across my wheat. Without tramlines, that's probably four different places where I'd be driving. From the standpoint of the number of trips we're making, tramlines are a no-brainer,” he says.
There are several ways of putting in tramlines, he says, but the biggest consideration is that your planting and spraying equipment match.
“If you're using a 60-foot sprayer, a 30-foot drill or a 15-foot drill, it works better if you're set up in multiples,” he says.
Glenn says he believes in spraying for weeds in the fall. “We've declared war on ryegrass. We've already sprayed every acre we own for ryegrass, and only a third of that is in wheat,” he said in late November. “We put out Prowl H20 on ground that's going into beans next year to control ryegrass. We put out simazine on ground that is going into corn next year because that land eventually will be rotated into wheat, and it's cheaper to control ryegrass when something other than wheat is growing. Even in the out years of wheat, we're trying to knock back ryegrass.”
Glenn says his biggest concern about the 2007-08 wheat crop in north Alabama are the logistics at harvest.
“We have never had the acreage in wheat — that I can remember — that we'll have this time. If wheat is harvested on time, it will be harvested within a two-week time period. Wheat will not sit in the field, and it will not wait — 10 days is a magic number. If you don't have the combine capacity or the trucking capacity to get wheat off in 10 days, I strongly suggest that you start looking for help now,” he says.
When it rains on wheat, says Glenn, bad things happen. “Wheat test weights go down when it rains. If you have your wheat contracted with the local flour dealers, they will test the falling numbers. If it does not pass that falling test, they're not going to accept that wheat. They'll tell you to take it someplace else. They're going to require that you deliver or find someone to deliver, or that you buy out of that contract. It can help if you have some bins and some drying capacity so you can knock out some of that moisture.”
The minute that wheat is ready, growers need to be out in the fields harvesting before rainfall hits it, says Glenn.
“Lines will be a problem at the mills. Everyone else will be trying to do the same thing as you. We'll see lines like we've seen with corn, but we don't have the three- to four-week period to get wheat out that we have with corn. I strongly suggest that you be making plans now for getting wheat out of the field, into storage, and delivered on contract.”