Wheat sowing has started to come to a halt for some in north central Oklahoma.
After good to excessive moisture conditions in mid-August and minimum to no rainfall events through September and into October, planting conditions have become extremely dry on top. Some wheat producers have continued to dust in their crops despite not receiving a significant rain in over a month.
Dusting in a wheat crop certainly comes with a risk. If the seed imbibes enough water to germinate, hopefully there is enough moisture near the root zone to continue growth. A common practice to dusting in wheat is to keep the seed shallow.
This practice is thought to be favorable because once a significant rain event occurs the seedlings can emerge faster. On the other hand, sowing a little deeper than an inch provides slightly warmer soil temperatures which also could hasten emergence as well as improve winter hardiness.
I took Canopeo readings with my smartphone in a field near Hennessey to compare emergence of two planting depths. This free app developed by Oklahoma State University estimates green canopy cover from a picture. The wheat was sown on Oct. 10 and the canopy cover readings were taken on Oct. 18.
Where the wheat was sown at about an inch and a half the stand was thicker and already developing a second leaf, while the wheat sown at an inch was barely at spiking. The canopy readings were 0.86% on deeper seeded and 0.23% on the shallower seeded, which was more than 3.5 times as much difference. Lack of shallow soil moisture was the issue in this case.
While driving around the region this week I have noticed that, overall, the prospects for decent fall wheat pasture are beginning to fade. Early sown wheat fields seem to have decent stands, but the reigns have been pulled back on growth. Wheat sown late-September and into early October showed stands that very greatly. Some stands are great, but I would say a slight majority have a thin and uneven stand to some extent. Fortunately, this scenario will have less of an impact for a grain-only production system.
Ideally, grazing shouldn’t be initiated until 6 inches of leaf growth to allow the wheat to reach optimal fall tonnage before dormancy. If grazing is started too early, then the wheat plants won’t produce as much fall forage and the potential for uprooting of plants can become more of an issue.
Research from OSU has shown that in dual-purpose wheat systems it is best to achieve at least 53% green canopy cover before dormancy. This can be measured with the previously mentioned Canopeo app. Producers can seek assistance from an OSU Extension educator to get readings if they prefer. This research also concluded that having at least 63% canopy cover at the time of grazing termination also maximized grain yield potential. Adjusting stocking rates accordingly is going to be paramount this year to preserve grain yield potential.
Luckily, insects and diseases have overwhelmingly been a non-issue this fall. There may have been some isolated incidents early in the planting season, but I haven’t heard of any recent reports. Mite-transmitted viruses still are a concern, especially out west, and aphids could potentially be found as well.
Due to the drought conditions, late weed flushes have been delayed, but bromes, mustards, bindweed and marestail still should be scouted for since fall applications can provide better herbicide efficacy.
Bushong is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomy specialist.