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7 tips for successful winter wheat

Jochum Wiersma, University of Minnesota Extension small-grain specialist, Crookston, says there are seven key points to establish winter wheat successfully and give it the best chance to survive the winter.

Plant winter wheat into standing stubble. Survival of winter wheat during the winter is enhanced when it is covered with snow during the coldest months of the year. Standing crop residues can effectively retain snow that may fall. Tall, erect flax and canola stubble works best, but any erect stubble that will retain snow is recommended.

Key Points

• Follow these seven tips for a good stand of winter wheat.

• Seed into standing stubble to increase winter protection from snow.

• Apply P at seeding to help early growth and winter survival.


Abandoned stands of alfalfa that have been killed with glyphosate work well. Even standing soybean stubble is capable of trapping snow and reducing winterkill. Planting winter wheat into wheat stubble is not ideal for reasons described below, but as long as disease management is planned, wheat stubble can be an acceptable residue.

Plant winter-hardy, adapted varieties. Use a winter-hardy variety, especially if you are not planting into residue. Likewise, planting past the optimum planting window demands you use the most winter-hardy varieties. Jerry, the latest North Dakota State University release, and varieties developed in Canada are among the most winter-hardy varieties available.

Calculate the correct seeding rate. An optimum stand for winter wheat in the spring is 23 to 25 plants per square foot. Calculate a seeding rate accordingly, knowing that a poor seedbed and planting past the optimum window will mean a higher percent stand loss and/or more winterkill.

Apply phosphorus at time of seeding. Phosphorus fertilization can play a role in winter-hardiness, especially if soil tests are low for P. Applying 10 to 15 pounds of P with the seed may improve winter survival in some years. Excessive N prior to winter freeze-up, however, can reduce winter survival.

Plant 1 to 1.5 inches deep. Adequate moisture for establishing winter wheat is often a concern as the soil profile is usually depleted of moisture in the fall. If there is little or no moisture in the soil’s surface, planting shallow (1 to 1.5 inches deep) and waiting for rain is recommended. Furthermore, these relatively shallow planting depths allow for faster emergence when temperatures are rapidly declining.

Avoid the “green bridge.” Avoid fall infections of wheat streak mosaic virus, barley yellow dwarf virus, Hessian fly, and tan spot by not planting too early and ensuring the removal of any volunteer wheat and grassy weeds at least two weeks prior to planting.

Choose the correct planting date for your area. The optimum planting date windows varies by region. Check local sources for the recommended planting date for your area.

Source: University of Minnesota

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KEY TIP: Seed winter wheat into canola, flax or other crop stubble to improve its odds of surviving the winter.

This article published in the August, 2012 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.