Producers, it’s that time of year to get ready to seed winter wheat. To ensure your winter wheat is successful, there are a few management practices to remember before you start seeding.
The right seed for your farm business
Winter wheat varieties are available with good adaptation to all areas in Western Canada. Before selecting a seed variety you should consider what market do you want to sell your winter wheat into? Winter wheat has two classes: Canadian Western Red Winter (CWRW) and Canadian Western General Purpose Winter (CWGP). CWRW is commonly sold into the milling market and CWGP is sold into the feed and ethanol market.
Selecting the right variety winter wheat for your operation should also be based on agronomic characteristics. Each variety has different agronomic traits including winter hardiness, height, maturity, disease resistance, lodging resistance and yield potential.
Areas with higher moisture or irrigation may want to consider growing a shorter or semi-dwarf winter wheat variety. Areas with high disease pressure should consider growing a variety based on the disease package.
It is always recommended to obtain certified seed. If you are using your own winter wheat seed (bin run) then a seed-quality test is recommended. The seed test will help you determine the quality (germination/vigour/disease) and the quantity (seeding rate based on TWK) of your seed lot. Ideal target plant stand for winter wheat is 30 to 35 plants per foot square.
Check your provincial seed guide or consult with your local winter wheat agronomist to see which varieties are best suited for your area
The right seeding date for your area
Seeding at the right time is essential for winter wheat establishment and over-winter survival. Winter wheat requires time to germinate, emerge, develop a good rooting system and produce three leaves and one tiller. It is very important that your winter wheat has a good crown rooting system before freeze up to ensure good winter survivability. Seeding later than the recommended seeding window can produce poor emergence and poor crown root development due to cooler soil temperature, which may result in a thin plant stand in the spring.
Don’t wait for the rain. Winter wheat requires a small amount of rain fall (1/3”) to germinate. Pick a date and stick with. Winter wheat does not need to be seeded into moisture. Ideal seeding depth for winter wheat is ½”-1”. Winter wheat is successful when the crown tissue is close to the soil surface for winter protection and for quick regrow in the spring giving it the competitive advantage over perennial weeds.
The right stubble
Direct seeding into standing stubble is important for winter wheat production. Studies have shown that canola is the ideal stubble for seeding winter wheat into because it provides the optimum crow protection during winter months. Standing stubble helps trap snow that insulates the crown tissue from cold winter temperatures. Snow cover ensures that the soil temperature at the crown (1/2” to 1” deep) stays well above killing temperatures, even with air temperatures at -40 degrees C. Optimally for winter survival, stubble needs to hold 4” or more of lightly packed snow.
The right fertility
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship approach: Right Source @ Right Rate, Right time, Right Place can be helpful in assessing the merits of various nutrient management options. A systemic seed treatment is highly recommended to protect your seed from soil borne diseases and will help protect the crown root through the winter.
To learn more about 4R practices and programs in Canada, visit Farming4RFuture or contact your local winter wheat agronomist for more information.
Finding the time to seed winter wheat during the fall harvest can be a challenge. Experienced winter wheat growers find there are enough breaks in harvest to seed without abandoning the combine. Damp mornings or down time due to rain make for the perfect time to seed.
Don’t rush seeding. Just like canola, winter wheat performs better if seeded at speeds of 4 mph.