Southern Spotlight: Back Into The Wheat Fields

James Banahan

James Banahan

It’s mid-February.  Remember that wheat that you planted back in October?

You’ve likely been consumed with calves and grain hauling as of late, but with topdress time right around the corner, the hour is upon us to do some stand evaluating.  With our dry and cold winter and all the attending rumors of winter kill, perhaps you’re in avoidance mode, but don’t be scared and don’t believe the coffee shop gossip.  Lace up yer boots and set a course into the heart of your wheat fields.  Now is the time to do a little scouting and see what’s what for yourself.

If you’re thinking, Hey man, it’s only February! I get it.  It is still early, but getting this jump on the condition of your crop will give you options that won’t be waiting around for you come March.  What if things are ugly out there?  Having this info now will open more options to you for switching crops.  What if things aren’t as bad as you fear?  Well then, you’ve saved yourself another month of winter kill blues and you can set topdress plans in motion.

Come March, when those brown, sad plants outside right now will suddenly spring out of dormancy, you know all too well the crushing tidal wave of activity that will beset you.  Right now, you still have some brain space left to fill, and maybe even some time.  So use it well, right?

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Whatever encouragement I might offer, the fact of the matter is that your options now are greater than your options come March are greater than your options come April, so get out there and take a look see before you put down any more N and before you put on any chemistry.

What you’re looking for on your scouting mission are all the regular suspects: What percentage of your crop suffered winter kill?  How spiffy is your stand establishment looking?  What weed pressures do you see?  Once you’re done there and back inside and warmed up, follow up with another quick scouting mission through your files: How much N have you already put down?  What are your yield goals?  How about plans for your next two crops?

With answers to these six relatively simple questions, you can make the proactive (rather than reactive) decisions that will best situation your operation for success this growing season.  If you’re less than pleased with what you see in your fields, knowing your plans and goals will help you navigate options with the future in mind.  If, for example, you see some serious weed pressures, considering plans for your next two crops will help you select a herbicide that won’t negatively impact your plans and leave you scrambling in a few months’ time.  Or if, for another example, things are actually looking not too shabby at all, you might review your N investment and yield goals with a new, ambitious eye.

And if you head out into your fields and leave thinking, Huh? then don’t hesitate to place a call to your friendly local FSA.  Sometimes the answers aren’t totally clear, and it’s probably in those moments that UFC can be of the greatest help to you.

Whatever the outcome of your scouting mission, your proactive involvement with your operation and early attention to the state of your fields will benefit you this season.  So that next warm-ish day in the forecast: happy scouting.