growing winter wheat

seeding into chemfallow

Many growers across the Prairies are facing challenging circumstances. Due to wet spring and summer conditions in some areas millions of acres have gone unseeded on the Prairies. These acres not only pose a problem by reducing income and increasing field management expenses, but could also be a further challenge to seeding the following year.

However, there is a solution: seed winter wheat into chemfallow.

Having a crop growing in the fall helps reduce excess moisture, and also eliminates the potential challenges of seeding in those wet fields the following year.

As seeding winter wheat into chemfallow requires different planning than seeding into other stubble, use this checklist to help you plan, prepare and seed successfully.

minimize stubble disturbance

Stubble is necessary to trap snow and insulate your winter wheat crop from winterkill. Year old stubble will break apart much easier than freshly harvested stubble.

  • If conducting multiple spraying operations, try to stay in the same tracks to minimize tire stubble knock-down
  • Let weeds bolt before spraying. Tall weed carcasses trap snow effectively
  • Use wide equipment (spraying and seeding) to minimize tire stubble knock-down
  • Use narrow openers when seeding
  • Avoid harrowing and cultivating if possible

line up your seed early

Make sure you contact your local seed supplier early, so you are not scrambling for seed at the last minute.

decide on a seed treatment

Based on seed quality, crop rotation, and weather conditions determine whether you are at a high risk for seedling disease development. If so, use a fungicide/insecticide seed treatment to minimize the effects of the disease. Recent research has shown that use of a fungicide/insecticide seed treatment increases the chance of seed survival and spring plant vigour in winter wheat.

line up your starter fertilizer

Phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulphur (S), and micronutrient fertilizers should be managed similarly to a spring wheat crop. Manage these appropriately to have a well-established winter wheat crop in the fall.

decide on a nitrogen management plan

Due to its high yield potential, winter wheat has a high N requirement. High soil moisture in the fall can lead to excessive spring losses if N is applied at seeding time. Conversely, it may be too wet in the spring to apply N in a timely fashion to meet the crop needs. Split applications and/or use of specialty nitrogen products may reduce risk of loss and best-fit situations where there is a lot of moisture.

seed into weed-free conditions

Eliminate perennial, biennial, and winter annual weeds as best as you can before establishing your winter wheat crop. Chemical control options are preferred over tillage to minimize stubble loss. Destroying green cereal growth prior to seeding is especially important to reduce the “green bridge” that can transmit wheat streak mosaic virus.

set appropriate expectations

Seeding winter wheat into chemfallow is not the optimum situation. Potential for poor stubble, higher N losses, and poor seedbed conditions may result in lower yields, lower weed competitive ability, and later crop maturity. Don’t let this get you down on this flexible and profitable crop.