Wheat School: Does it pay to precision plant wheat?

Will it pay to park the drill and invest in precision planting technology for wheat?

That’s a question Michigan State University researcher Dennis Pennington is tackling in an ongoing research project. Earlier this year, he shared some of his early results with growers attending the CerealSmart conference at Kitchener, Ont.

On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Wheat School, Pennington tells Bernard Tobin that precision planting, through better seed singulation, metering and depth control has the potential to improve uniformity of emergence, growth, and crop canopy. That can add up to higher yield potential and more grain in the bin, he adds.

Much of Pennington’s research is focusing on row spacing and plant populations. Early data suggests significant yield increases for precision planted seed at higher populations, but there are challenges — trying to singulate seed to create uniform planting at 2 million seeds per acre is difficult. So far, Pennington says, the most significant benefit from precision planting over a conventional drill is better seeding depth control.

The next challenge is to determine how precision planting can enhance wheat production in wider rows. Success in wider rows may hold the key to wheat’s precision future because it could allow growers to plant two crops — soybeans and wheat — with the same precision planter. That investment would make a lot more sense for growers, says Pennington.

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