How much nitrogen do you put on wheat? There are some new recommendations for making that determination from personnel at N.C. State University and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Perhaps the best thing about these new fertilization recommendations is that they may also help you save some money on inputs.
This year North Carolina wheat growers will need a tiller count at green up if they plan to use a split application of N, says Ben Knox, NCDA&CS regional agronomist.
"If the tiller count is low, growers should put out some nitrogen as soon as possible," Knox adds. "If there are fewer than 50 tillers per square foot of row, growers need to apply up to half (about 60 pounds) of the spring nitrogen now. For counts between 50 and 70 per square foot, 30 to 40 pounds of nitrogen should be applied. If the tiller count is high, but the wheat is yellow, an application of 30 pounds of nitrogen is appropriate.
"I have seen fields with as few as 15 to 20 tillers per square foot at this time of year end up making good wheat," Knox adds. "A timely nitrogen application followed by some dry weather and warm temperatures can yield surprising results. However, even if the wheat is thin and has to be abandoned, the nitrogen will not have been wasted. It will have made the wheat a better cover crop."
After the early N application, wait until Zadok's growth stage 30 to decide how much more N you will need. Collect two types of samples: a tissue sample and a matching above-ground biomass sample. Label these two sample types with the same sample ID and submit them to the NCDA Agronomic Division laboratory within 24 hours of collection. The lab will provide you with a Plant Analysis Report and recommendations.
The new recommendations take biomass measurements into account. These are indications of differences in crop growth due to factors such as planting date, row spacing and moisture levels. North Carolina has experienced an extraordinary amount of rain this year, so these new recommendations should be more valuable this season.
Find important additional information including guidelines for determining GS-30 on the NCDA&CS website, www.ncagr.gov/paffairs/release/2010/2-10wheat.htm, or by contacting their NCDA&CS regional agronomist or county Cooperative Extension agent. If you need assistance these skilled personnel can also help you decipher your plant analysis report0 and answer other questions.