Top 10 Tips for Spring Wheat Yields

Several best management practices can help spring wheat farmers realize optimum yields and return on investment. Photo courtesy of AgStock Images/Robert Bennett.

Best management practices (BMPs) go a long way to help farmers secure the best yields and return on investment when planting spring wheat. While there are many factors involved in achieving top yields, the following top 10 tips can help growers add bushels and profits and wind up with the best spring wheat outcomes:

1. Harvest practices

Spreading straw and chaff residue properly with the combine at harvest will help set the stage for optimal field conditions for planting wheat the following spring. Too much residue can delay emergence. Adjust residue spreading to match the width of your combine platform for best results.

2. Variety selection

Choose spring wheat varieties that best fit your area’s climate, soil type and individual farm goals. Seed purchase ranks as one of the highest inputs in wheat production but also offers the best potential for return on investment. Plant only high-quality, certified seed.

3. Seed genetics

Use newer, commercially available spring wheat varieties as well as the tried-and-true selections for your area. Consult your seed dealer, view recent university Extension variety research trials and talk to your neighbors about how newer varieties worked for them. 

4. Seed treatments

Protect young wheat seedlings with seed treated with fungicide and insecticide protection to help protect against common fungal soilborne diseases such as Pythium, Rhizoctonia and Fusarium rots and insect problems like aphids, cutworms and Hessian fly as well as wireworms, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.

5. Soil testing

Test soil annually to ensure adequate fertility levels or to determine if you need additional fertilizer applications.

6. Proper fertility

Manage nitrogen for profitable spring wheat production. Base nitrogen fertility decisions on use rates that result in highest potential income rather than highest potential yield. Balance the cost of fertilizer and other inputs based on wheat commodity prices. Use appropriate rates if you choose to apply fertilizer when seed is planted. Too much fertilizer applied at planting may stunt germination.

7. Planting dates

Plant spring wheat based upon your geography and environmental conditions. One good rule of thumb is to “beat the heat.” In most spring wheat geographies, this will not be later than the third week of April. Check your crop insurance policy to make sure planting dates meet coverage requirements.

8. Seedbed preparation

Plant into moist, weed-free soil with evenly distributed crop residue, or plant into clean-tilled fields, to encourage good emergence and a uniform stand. These planting practices will simplify many management decisions such as herbicide, fungicide and insecticide applications throughout the growing season. A uniform, even stand will also make harvest go more smoothly.

9. Seeding depth and rate

Plant spring wheat seeds ideally 1 to 2 inches beneath the soil; however seedlings will emerge when planted 3 inches deep. Calibrate the planter and check for accuracy as you plant. Extension experts advise planting approximately 1.5 bushels of seed per acre when using average-sized seed.

10. Pest management

Control weed, disease and insect pressures with timely scouting and identification for your best economic outcome. Seed treatments, wheat varieties with built-in resistance, and foliar herbicide, fungicide and insecticide applications go a long way to protect yields from pest threats.

Bayer Solutions for Spring Wheat

Bayer offers a broad portfolio of season-long products to help winter wheat growers achieve the highest possible yield and grain quality. Read the entire label for best results and to confirm the product is effective on the pest you need to control. Choose the best products to control your specific pests and achieve the best yield outcome. Not every product is suitable for every situation, nor registered in every state, and proper application techniques will enhance results.

Integrated Weed Management

Bayer has a broad portfolio to combat tough-to-control and resistant weeds*. A well-thought-out herbicide program, using multiple sites of action and nonchemical practices, should be implemented. Before applying any herbicide, please read the entire label for the best possible results and to confirm that the product is effective on the weeds you wish to control.

The following Bayer solutions are valuable tools to consider for your program.

Huskie® Complete herbicide** (2, 27, 6) is available to wheat growers in Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming. This all-in-one wheat herbicide is a combination of Huskie with ALS grass control and an HPPD-inhibitor chemistry previously not available for wheat. Together, these modes of action provide good control of green and yellow foxtail along with 50 grass and broadleaf weeds.

Bayer also offers Olympus® wheat herbicide to help keep fields clean from start to finish. Growers can use Olympus at burndown as a cost-effective, reliable solution to suppress brome grass in spring and winter wheat. The herbicide has residual activity to help fight weeds as they germinate. With excellent crop tolerance, Olympus allows for pre-plant, pre-emergence and postemergence application in spring wheat crops.

Because Bayer continuously provides growers with new solutions to weed management problems, the company recently introduced two new wheat herbicides.

The first is Wolverine® Advanced (1, 6, 27), which controls 69 grass and broadleaf weeds in wheat thanks to three modes of action in a single product. Wolverine Advanced provides the same unique broadleaf control found in Huskie with the addition of ACCase grass chemistry to control green and yellow foxtail and barnyardgrass. This wheat herbicide is an excellent tool to consider as a grass-chemistry rotation partner to manage weed resistance.

Wheat growers also have the option of a second new herbicide, Varro® (2), which controls grass weeds. It is available in Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming. Varro controls green and yellow foxtail as well as barnyardgrass. Just as important, Varro provides excellent rotational flexibility and allows for a wide range of choices in broadleaf tankmix partners while enhancing the performance of these tankmixes.

To learn more about using herbicides with effective modes of action, refer to the Herbicide Resistance Management Guide. To explore the recommendations of Respect the Rotation™, the Bayer resistance management program, contact your local Bayer sales representative or talk to your regional agronomist.

* Not every product is suitable for every situation, nor registered in every state, and proper application techniques will enhance results.

** Huskie Complete is a Restricted Use Pesticide.

Wheat Disease Management

A well-thought-out disease-management program, including best management practices, proper seed protection and selection and fungicide applications using multiple modes of action, should be implemented to sustainably manage diseases. The following Bayer solutions are valuable tools to consider for your program.

Because cereal fungal diseases can overwinter and survive in crop residue, crop rotations can help reduce the inoculum of fungal leaf disease pathogens. Fungicide seed treatments can also provide a healthy start for seedlings, especially in cool and damp spring conditions. EverGol® Energy from Bayer is a seed treatment fungicide that promotes more root growth for faster crop establishment. It controls seed and soilborne diseases such as Rhizoctonia. It features a combination of fungicides incorporating a complementary mode of action that supports resistance management.

Bayer also offers spring wheat growers Raxil® PRO MD, a broad spectrum seed-applied fungicide containing three modes of action that provide protection for seeds and seedlings against infection from Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, Pythium, smuts, bunt and seed decay fungi, such as Penicillium. Raxil Pro MD helps your crop emerge faster and healthier, giving more green from the start.

A number of fungicides are available for both early-season and late-season control of these common leaf diseases. Chemistries from two of the most commonly used classes of fungicides – triazoles and strobilurins – provide good to excellent activity against wheat leaf diseases. Wheat growers should consider fungicides with systemic movement and curative properties for the broadest protection from cereal foliar diseases.

Prosaro® fungicide provides unsurpassed activity against head diseases such as scab (Fusarium head blight) and glume blotch. With a combination of two chemistries, Prosaro provides both fast action and a long residual. Moreover, Prosaro fungicide controls various types of leaf diseases like rust, Septoria leaf blotch, tan spot and powdery mildew. It’s a good choice to ensure grain quality and enhance yield potential.

Insect Management

Starting off with a good seed treatment is an excellent way to control insects and protect plants above and below the ground.

Gaucho® 600FS seed applied insecticide provides unmatched protection against insects, including aphids, Hessian fly, wireworms and grasshoppers, which can cause economic loss. With a convenient low-use rate, this proven seed treatment can be used with other Bayer SeedGrowth™ products EverGol® Energy and Raxil® Pro MD to protect against insects and improve plant health, leading to higher yields.

When insect populations warrant foliar insecticide applications, wheat growers can use Baythroid® XL insecticide. Baythroid XL has the broadest pyrethroid label available for consistent performance on a broad spectrum of insect pests, with fast knockdown and long residual control.

Always read and follow label instructions. Not all products are registered for use in every state. Baythroid XL is a Restricted Use Pesticide.

Visit our cereals section for information on a portfolio of products from Bayer to help cereal growers maximize yields and protect their crops or contact your local Bayer representative.  

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