Late Harvest Has Wheat Backed Up

The next week and a half are especially critical for planting winter wheat in the optimal window. Farmers need to plant wheat early enough in the season to allow adequate plant development prior to winter, but late enough to minimize problems with insect and diseases.

Published on: Oct 10, 2011

As corn and soybean harvest extends into the later weeks of harvest, the optimal window for planting winter wheat in the Eastern Corn Belt is rapidly closing according to Ohio State University Extension wheat researcher Pierce Paul.

"Our target is always to get the wheat planted before the second week of October, basically within the first two weeks after the fly-free date," says Paul, a plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center . "That puts us next Monday (Oct. 10) as the climax of the optimal dates for the northern portion of the state. I'm concerned, and I'll be even more concerned if we don't have our wheat in by next Friday."

As of Oct. 3, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that only 1% of winter wheat had been planted in Ohio, 26% behind last year and 17% behind the five-year average. In Indiana, 7% of the crop was in the ground as of Oct. 3.

Paul says the next week and a half are especially critical for planting winter wheat in the optimal window. The concept is for farmers to plant wheat early enough in the season to allow adequate plant development prior to winter, but late enough to minimize problems with insect and diseases

The Hessian Fly-free date in Ohio ranges from Sept. 22 to Oct. 5. In Indiana, it ranges from Sept. 22 in the Northern counties to as late as Oct. 9 in the extreme South.

"As you start extending past that two-week window after the fly-free date, you want to look at increasing seeding rate," Paul says. "The idea of planting early is to get enough tiller development to minimize stand loss due to winterkill going into dormancy, so you'll need to increase the number of tillers per foot of row by increasing seeding rate."

In addition for hoping for a late winter, farmers should also pay attention to planting depth as the window for planting the crop extends, and follow Extension recommendations.

With the optimal window closing, and corn and soybeans still largely in the fields, Paul advises growers to avoid the temptation to go against the recommended crop rotation and advance wheat ahead of soybeans in a given field.

"Guys will be tempted to plant wheat after corn or after wheat, and that's definitely a concern because it presents an increased chance for disease issues. Planting wheat on wheat, or wheat on corn is a potential recipe for disaster."

Read more of Paul's recommendations on late-planted wheat from the C.O.R.N. newsletter.