Tips for Planting Winter Wheat

Apply phosphorus at seeding and plant during the optimum time for your growing region.

Published on: Sep 9, 2010
Below are key points to establish winter wheat successfully and give it the best changes to survive Minnesota's winter.

1. 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. 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.

2. 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 NDSU release and varieties developed in Canada are among the most winter hardy varieties currently available

3. Calculate the correct seeding rate - An optimum stand for winter wheat in the spring is 23 to 25 plants/ft2. 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.

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

5. 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.

6. Avoid the Green Bridge - Avoid fall infections of Wheat Streak Mosaic virus, Barley Yellow Dwarf virus, Hessian Fly, and/or 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.

7. Choose the correct planting date - The optimum planting date windows are between Sept. 20 and Oct. 10 south of I-90; Sept. 10 and Sept. 30 south of I-94, and between Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 north of I-94.

-By Jochum Wiersma, University of Minnesota Extension wheat specialist