Wheat yield starts with planting decisions

Hessian fly free dates for southeast Michigan farmers and other planting recommendations for a successful wheat yield.

Wheat yield is a product of three components: heads per acre, kernels per head and weight per kernel. However, it is estimated that 60 percent of the yield potential for a specific season is determined as soon as planting is finished.

The planting objective is to obtain the proper population of a uniformly emerging wheat crop that is planted on time for the specific area. Precision planting includes seedbed preparation, planting date and seed placement. Improper variety selection, poor seed quality, late planting, uneven and low plant populations cannot usually be overcome with management practices later in the season.

Michigan State University (MSU) recommends:

  • Wheat should be planted about 7 to 10 days after the Hessian fly free date. This date is September 18 for Wayne and Washtenaw counties, September 21 for Monroe County, and September 25 for Lenawee County.
  • Wheat seeding rate is 1.6 to 2.1 million seeds per acre of seed that is 90 percent or more germination. Start at the lower rate and increase as the seeding date is delayed into mid-October.
  • Seed wheat 0.75 to 1.5 inches deep. Planting deeper retards germination and emergence, while planting too shallow increases the risk of winterkill and poor germination.
  • The 2011 MSU Wheat Variety Trial results are available online or in hard copy at the Monroe County Extension office. This is one excellent source to use along with commercial seed company information.
  • Apply up to 25 pounds of nitrogen in the fall, but no more than 10 pounds with the seed. Do not apply more than 60 pounds of N + K2O with the seed. There is no limit to the Phosphorus that can be applied in the fall. Well-limed soils generally have enough Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur.

Tramlines should be considered for drilled wheat and soybeans, particularly if the farmer is doing his own pesticide spraying and is gearing up for Asian soybean rust or Chinese aphids next year anyway. Tramlines are simply “roadways” to prevent over-application and skips in fertilizer and pesticide applications. Tramlines match the width of applicator tractor tires and are spaced to exactly match the width of the spray boom and fertilizer applicator.

Related article
Considerations for planting winter wheat,” Martin Nagelkirk, MSUE.

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