Last fall it was extremely difficult to plant wheat in a timely manner across most of Missouri. Although there was some wheat planted at an ideal timeframe, much of the crop that did get planted in the state was very late and got very little growth going into the winter. We also had a colder, harsher winter than we have had in recent years. Wheat is very resilient and can recover from considerable winter conditions. However, the extremes this season, along with the lateness of the crop, are enough to have generated numerous questions about wheat stand potential. Making the decision, whether to keep a wheat stand, can be a tough call. Here are some factors to consider when deciding if a wheat stand is adequate:
To properly assess a wheat stand, observe 10 to 15 locations across the field. Count the number of plants and/or tillers per square foot. There are several methods, such as using a hula hoop or square to measure plants within a given area. An easy way is to just simply use a tape measure or yardstick and measure the length of row equal to 1 sq. ft. Use the table below for the length to use with the appropriate row width:
|Row Width||Length of Row to Equal 1 sq. ft.|
For example, with wheat planted in 7.5" rows, count the number of tillers or plants in a 19.25" length and that would be equal to the number in 1 sq. ft.
When using tiller counts to determine the condition of wheat fields, only count tillers that have at least 3 leaves per plant.
The chart below is from Dr. Carrie Knott, Extension Grain Crops Specialist at the University of Kentucky and shows wheat yield potential for a range of tillers and plants per square foot. Adapted from a table in Section 3: Cultural Practices in A Comprehensive Guide to Wheat Management in Kentucky http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id125/id125.pdf
|Plants per square foot||Tillers per square foot||Potential Yield %*|
*This provides an estimate of the relationship of wheat stand to yield potential and is only a guide. Many factors (plant vigor, weather, disease, fertility management, planting date, and variety) influence how a wheat stand ultimately responds to achieve its final yield potential.
Since much of the wheat crop did not have time for adequate tillering in the fall, it will be important to supply nitrogen early to help compensate for the delayed growth. For more information, see the IPCM article: Strategies for N on wheat this spring, by Peter Scharf published February 28, 2019.
REVISED: February 21, 2017