Planting Preparations and Tips for Optimum Wheat Emergence
With careful planning and management, you can achieve a uniform stand, strong emergence and more yield. Review this checklist to ensure you’re getting your wheat off to the best start.
- Planting depth: Wheat seed planting depth should be 1- to-1.5 inches with good seed-to-soil contact. This planting depth reduces winter injury risk and prevents heaving. Heaving occurs when the soil freezes and thaws, which can potentially push the wheat seed to the surface of the soil.
According to a wheat planting-depth study by the University of Kentucky Extension, planting depths greater than 1- to-1.5 inches achieved only about 85 percent emergence. Additionally, those plants had less fall vigor and tillering, which reduced yield. Planting between 1- to-1.5 inches had emergence rates of 90 percent or better. The only time deeper planting depths should be considered is when soils are moisture deficient.
Wheat seeds can germinate at as low as 39 degrees Fahrenheit, though 54- to-77 degrees Fahrenheit is considered optimum temperature for rapid germination. In favorable conditions, emergence should begin within seven days of planting.
- Planting equipment: Having your drill in tip-top condition is paramount. Make sure to check for any loose hoses, chains and gears that could impact your seeding rate. Calibrate your planter to the correct settings to ensure you’re getting the right number of seeds in the ground. For example, you’ll likely want to plant around 30- to-35 seeds per square foot. You can calibrate seeding rates through a number of methods.
Additionally, when you calibrate your drill, make sure to note the standard germination of the varieties you purchased. You can find this number on the seed tag. This number is used to calculate seeding rate to achieve the desired population. For example, if the targeted live seeding rate is 30 live seeds per square foot and the standard germination is 80 percent, then the total seeds needed are 38 seeds per square foot (30 ÷ 0.8 = 38).
Down pressure is also important for making sure the seed is properly placed in the soil. Drills with additional coulters and more down pressure on the planter units help establish a good stand of wheat, especially in reduced tillage and no-tillage fields. Try to maintain a planting speed of 5- to-6 miles per hour. Higher speeds can cause the openers to ride up, especially if the down pressure isn’t high enough. Of course, check your drill or air seeder manual for speed and pressure recommendations or talk to your local equipment dealer.
One of the biggest challenges with wheat can be poor seed-to-soil contact. If you’re planting into powdery soils, make sure to have a good row closing system on your drill. Plus, fall rains can settle the soil, causing the crowns of the seed to push upward to the soil surface. Take this into consideration when determining seeding depth for powdery soils as soil settling can negatively impact your stand quality.
- Seed treatments: Fungicide seed treatments can protect your seedlings from soil- and seedborne pathogens like Fusarium, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Septoria, and Stagonospora.
You can also pair seed inoculants like SabrEx® with fungicide seed treatments. SabrEx boosts root development and tillering. Strong fall tillers generally produce heads with more kernels. Results show a typical yield boost of 5.3 bu/A when using SabrEx.