Wheat School: Putting precision plant wheat to the test in Ontario

RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson and OMAFRA cereals specialist Joanna Follings.

Will precision planting winter wheat pay for Ontario growers?

That’s a question RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson and OMAFRA cereals specialist Joanna Follings are determined to answer with a new research trial they planted last week at Follings’ home farm at Ayr, Ont.

At the 2020 CerealSmart conference last February at Kitchener, Ont., Michigan State University researcher Dennis Pennington shared research results from growers in his state who were seeing up to a 10-bushel yield advantage from precision planting wheat. He noted that early results indicated that better seed singulation, metering and depth control appears to improve uniformity of emergence, growth, and crop canopy, which adds up to higher yield potential and more grain in the bin.

A Bourgault frame-mounted seeder is one of several seeders being used to test the performance of precision planted wheat.

Based on this experience, Follings and Johnson hatched a plan to put precision planted wheat to the test in Ontario. On this episode of Wheat School, we catch up with the researchers as they are busy planting their first trial.

Follings explains that four different seed drills will be used with a range of planting technologies, including downforce to plant wheat in 5-, 7.5- and 10-inch rows. Johnson notes that the Michigan research was conducted using a modified Monosem corn planter to deliver the narrow row spacing. The research team will keep a close eye on row width and the accuracy of precision seed depth placement to determine how they contribute to plant performance and yield.

RealAgriculture will follow the trial on Wheat School throughout the fall and into next summer. Follings plans to report in with observations on how different applications of downforce and row spacing impacts emergence and tiller counts. We’ll also visit the trial in the spring and at heading to evaluate performance differences linked to technology and row width.

Follings also plans to run some fertilizer comparisons. She’s getting plenty of questions from growers on the value of MESZ versus MAP fertilizer. Many growers are asking about the return on investment they can expect from MESZ and its added zinc and sulphur.

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