Spring Cleaning, Spring Seeding, Spring Assessment

Apr 25, 2018

By Kayla Graham

This time of year calls for spring cleaning, spring seeding and a winter wheat spring assessment. The increasing hours of sunlight and warmer temperatures may entice you to conduct a crop assessment prematurely, but we encourage growers to just monitor their fields during seeding operations. A good rule of thumb is to not make a final decision on your crop until mid-way through spring seeding. After all, you’d need a little time to recover if you spent the last six months hibernating, too.

If you’ve given your crop time to recover then consider these next steps:

  • Don’t assume the best or worst – You might see a field full of brown plants, or contrarily a field of green. It’s important to know that neither of these observations mean the plants are alive or dead. Brown plants could be hiding new growth, whereas green plants could be dead plants masquerading as healthy growth. It’s possible for plants to maintain chlorophyll after winterkill has taken place, so it will be crucial to perform further inspection.
  • Perform an in-field assessment – To do this, dig up several plants from different locations within the field. Look for new root growth (the new roots should appear white). If you are not able to find new, white roots then peel back the layers of leaves until you find the crown of the plant. Don’t be discouraged by dead-looking leaves. When you reach the crown of the plant, it should appear white. If you have new root growth or a white-coloured crown, things are looking good.
  • Perform a paper towel or bag test – If the in-field assessment wasn’t enough to confirm the state of the crop, there’s more you can do. Dig up a few plants with the root system intact from different areas in your field. Rinse any soil off the plants and wrap them in a damp paper towel, or place them inside a plastic Place the paper towel or bag in a warm area with exposure to light. Live plants will begin to grow new, white roots within a few days while the crown on a dead plant will turn brown.
  • Don’t be alarmed by a thin-looking stand – Winter wheat may look sparse, which sets off alarm bells and can lead to terminating the crop. But don’t jump the gun just yet. With winter wheat’s tremendous ability to tiller, even a thin stand can produce a favourable The optimal plant stand is over 20 plants per square foot, but even a plant stand of 10 to 15 plants per square foot can still produce an adequate crop.
  • Weigh your options – If your winter wheat appears to be struggling, consider an early application of nitrogen as this type of management will help an ailing crop. Even in poor conditions, winter wheat has been known to bounce back, however, the winter wheat stand may behave more like spring wheat. That is because it is less competitive with weeds and it has an increased risk to disease and pest pressures.

Only when the stand has been properly assessed and deemed unacceptable should a producer terminate a winter wheat crop and re-seed. If you do decide to re-seed, there are agronomic factors to be considered. Spray out the winter wheat stand as the crop will draw on moisture and nutrient reserves. Be cautious if re-seeding to a different type of wheat as wheat streak mosaic virus may carry over from infected winter wheat crops. If a herbicide was applied in the fall, be mindful of re-seeding restrictions.  Additionally, remember to credit fall fertilizer.


For more information, contact your local Western Winter Wheat agronomist: