After a long winter, you may be eager to see how your winter wheat made it through the season, but don’t jump the gun just yet. A proper spring assessment at the right time is a vital management tool in a successful winter wheat production system. Assessing the crop condition too early in the season can be misleading as brown material many not be a sign of winterkill, and green leaves may not necessarily mean the crop has survived the winter.
Take a breath and be patient. Much of the Prairies experienced dry conditions during the 2017 planting season and this could have led to variable growth stages in winter wheat. Some fields may range from un-germinated seeds, to seeds sprouted below the ground, all the way up to the three-leaf stage.
Regardless of your fall seeding situation, winter wheat plants need time to recover in the spring. The Western Winter Wheat Initiative encourages growers and industry agronomists to give winter wheat plants some R&R. Practice patience and do not conduct a spring assessment too early. An in-field test doesn’t need to be undertaken until midway through spring seeding.
So allow your plant stand to rally and recover. Winter wheat tillers aggressively, and research has indicated that even thin stands can yield well. Plant populations that would be unacceptable for spring wheat can still produce a profitable winter wheat crop.
If your crop is looking a little weak coming out of the winter, fertility can help. Applying nitrogen as soon as possible can give winter wheat a boost.
To give your winter wheat the best start this spring, contact your local agronomist or visit growwinterwheat.ca.