Will Young Wheat Make It Through the Winter?

Given the right variety and planted on time, specialist says 'yes.'

Published on: Nov 12, 2010
The U.S. drought monitor map has shown a bright red spot over southern Indiana all fall for a reason. It simply hasn't rained there in any quantities since mid-July. One fall operation that has been dicey is seeding wheat.

"Those who used a drill rather than applying it broadcast and trying to disk it in seemed to do better," says Chuck Mansfield, a Purdue University agronomist based at Vincennes. "The wheat is small, but if you placed it a half-inch or so deep, it seemed to sprout and get off to a decent start.

"No, it's nowhere as big as you would expect it to be for this time of year. But wheat ahs shown the ability to go through winter, even without much fall growth, and still do well in the spring, and yield well," Mansfield says,.

He does add some caveats, however. Based on test plots at the Purdue Southwest Purdue Ag center near Vincennes, wheat sown at the proper depth in disked soybean stubble may have an edge this fall. Wheat no-tilled into soybean stubble in a comparison trial also looks reasonably well," he says.

Many farmers in southwest Indiana have adopted the practice of following corn with wheat. This may not have been the best year to do that, based on what Mansfield is seeing so far in the research farm plots. "Where we worked the corn stalks with some tillage first, the stand is reasonable," he says. "But where we just simply no-tilled into corn stalks with our Great Plains drill, the stand just isn't very consistent."

One advantage of the dry weather may be a severe reduction in aphid populations in wheat this fall, Mansfield notes. That may be bad for aphids, but it's good news for wheat growers. Spring infections of wheat by aphids can result in barley yellow dwarf.

In fact, Mansfield is studying timing of aphid appearance and how it plays out into barley yellow dwarf in a study sponsored by Bayer Chemical Company. He has seen very few aphids this fall, even without fall treatments with insecticides.

Because there are few aphids active this fall, he expects minimal activity next spring. The spring infestation of aphids is what is usually critical to how much barley yellow dwarf develops.

Herb Ohm at Purdue is developing resistance to barley yellow dwarf with a gene he brought over from wheatgrass through conventional breeding methods. That means it is not GMO wheat. However, many varieties now on the market do not yet have this trait, Mansfield concludes.