Spring Effects on Winter Wheat

Kim Beam

Kim Beam

As we finally start our warming trend and take off into our traditional spring, I wanted to reflect back on a few of our past spring seasons for conversation.  Why you ask?  Because the weather is the one thing we can’t change in any of our operations, yet it is the one thing that can change our operations the most.Wheat started breaking dormancy the first week of March in 2010. The state of Kansas had persistent dry conditions all spring and also experienced high winds the last week of March and the first week of April, especially in the western half. Temperatures were also above normal the first week of April and 25 percent of the wheat was jointed in mid- April, behind 35 percent for last year and 47 percent for the 5-year average.

Wheat started breaking dormancy in late February of 2012 due to unseasonably warm temperatures across Kansas. The first three weeks of March were windy and temperatures were above normal with several areas setting new record highs. The warm weather helped the wheat crop to grow quickly: 61 percent was jointed by the end of March compared to 21 percent for the 5 year average.


Kim Beam and Alex Coonrod checking winter wheat earlier this spring.

The last week of March 2013, wheat started breaking dormancy.  By mid-April, the Kansas winter wheat crop was 35 percent jointed across the state, behind 89 percent a year ago and 47 percent average.  Most of the UFC Southern Region saw precipitation in the form of rain, ice, snow, and isolated hail.  Temperatures for the week were below normal with lows falling below freezing in the most of the state.

So what does this mean for our winter wheat producers? It means every season is different, and though our timing may be different as well, our management remains the same.  For the majority of the wheat acres, top-dress management decisions with nitrogen stabilizers and weed control at green-up has been taken care of so the next critical decisions to consider are disease, insect, and final nutrient analysis.

In general, the largest reductions in disease severity resulting in the greatest increases in wheat yield/grain quality occurs when fungicides are applied between flag leaf and early flowering; head diseases should be treated at the onset of flowering to 50% flowering.  Research conducted by K-State indicates a single fungicide application made to susceptible wheat variety when the disease incidence is high will often result in a 4-13% yield increase, averaging 10%, compared to wheat that was untreated.

It is important to pay attention to disease scouting reports as the risk of severe loss to disease is greatest when foliar diseases have been established early resulting in a constant disease pressure throughout the growing season.  It is also important to know the varieties you have planted and their susceptibility to leaf rust, stripe rust, tan spot, or powdery mildew.

Management of disease and insect pressures start by being in the field, UFC has trained Crop Consultants and Field Sales Agronomists to assist you with any wheat production question you might have.  Generally, insect pressures are a hit or miss depending not only on our growing season, but the season to the south of us.  Again, paying attention to scouting reports from local UFC Crop Consultants, FSA’s, and Regional reports is important.

Additional nitrogen and other nutrient applications should be considered if earlier nutrient applications were not made or if deficiency symptoms are apparent; however, sources of nitrogen fertilizers, nitrogen stabilizers, timing and types of application should be discussed with your local FSA or Crop Consultant to ensure crop safety and actual benefit to the wheat crop.

United Farmers Cooperative is partnered with Heinen Brothers Agra Service to extend our custom application services through the air for fungicide, insecticide, and foliar nutrient applications. Your local UFC Representatives are on hand to assist you in planning the best method of application for your operation.

In closing, regardless of whether you are from Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, or anywhere in the Midwest, I will remind you of the old adage “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”

Happy spring Ya’ll!!