Wheat School: Managing Ontario’s “Incredible” Winter Crop

Peter Johnson was practically giddy as he walked through wheat fields on a beautiful November day near Woodstock, Ontario.

“We’ve got big acreage of wheat and big yield potential. How could Wheat Pete be any happier,” pronounced Real Agriculture’s resident agronomist as he digested the fact that Ontario farmers have planted almost 1 million acres to wheat this fall.

“There’s an unbelievable amount of incredible wheat in the province,” Johnson says. The challenge now is to put that yield potential in the bin.

In this Wheat School episode, Johnson looks at the range of wheat development across the province and management implications. The tremendous fall weather allowed many farmers to plant early and it’s critical for farmers to get a handle on the how their crop is developing. “Keep digging and scouting. Know where you’re at so you know what management you need,” he adds. (continued below)

Johnson has talked to farmers who planted as early as September 7. In many cases, theses early-planters maintained high seeding rates – up to 1.5 million seeds/acre. In these fields, farmers are seeing as many as five to eight tillers per plant and the huge mat of growth is already promoting leaf disease. Here, Johnson recommends avoiding fungicides – it doesn’t help – and says to spare the nitrogen because the crop will be prone to lodging.

“You don’t want to starve it for nitrogen, but no early nitrogen. Wait as long as you can before putting nitrogen on to let a few tillers fall away.” Farmers also need to check the standability rating for their variety. “If it’s not highly rated, you may have to look at growth regulators to keep it standing,” adds Johnson.

Watch more Wheat School videos here

Much of the wheat looks ideal, especially fields planted during the last two weeks of September. “It’s planted at about an inch and a half and has a main stem and three tillers. It won’t need early nitrogen, but you don’t want to starve it.” In these fields, Johnson recommends a shot of nitrogen right around corn planting.

Late planted wheat – around October 11 – will need early nitrogen next spring. Much of that wheat is now showing two leaves and will need nitrogen to make it tiller.

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