Wheat School: Establishing wheat mortality rates

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Seeding; the time of year when we put the crop in the ground, help it as much as we can, and then when we can do nothing more for the upcoming crop — we wait.

Producers are continuously wondering how many of the seeds put in the ground will emerge and become viable plants.

In this Wheat School episode, Jeremy Boychyn, agronomy research specialist with Alberta Wheat and Barley, explains how to properly establish wheat mortality rates once your seedlings have made their way out of the ground.

“The first thing you want to do is get a good idea of what the field looks like as a whole. You want to see if there are any problem areas, and you want to avoid them when taking some of these measurements. However, you want to make sure you are in an area that is actually representative of the field,” says Boychyn.

“The one trick I’ve seen agronomists or farmers do, is use a coloured ball or shovel that you are using, and throw it. Then go to where you’ve thrown it to, drop your metre stick there, and take your measurements.”

Boychyn explains while you are kneeling down, close to the soil, you should count the amount of plants along the metre stick, which will then be followed by a little math.

“Depending on your row width, you are going to multiply that number — if you are in twelve inch rows, you are going to multiply that number by 3.3, if you are in ten inch rows you are going to multiply that number by four, and if you are in nine inch rows you are going to multiply that number by 4.4. This is going to give you the number of plants you have per metre squared,” he explains. “You’ll then divide that number by ten, and you’ll get the number of plants per foot squared.”

Once you’ve done this numerous times across your field, Boychyn says you’ll get an average of what your plant stand is like throughout the crop.

He adds, if you have lots of hills and nulls in your field, you will want to take more samples than you would typically take in a more flat, even area.

This information is vital because it gives you an idea of how your seeds are going to respond to your management tactics.

“Especially in a dry year like this, where you’re potentially digging deeper for moisture, or you’re maybe wanting to move it a bit quicker because environmental challenges are making it difficult for you to seed, you are going to have a good idea of how those seeds turned into a crop.”

To learn more about mortality rates, check out the latest episode of the Wheat School below:

Click here for more Wheat School episodes.

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