Soil Fertility in Wheat


(bump and click) – [Presenter] If you have
decided winter wheat fits well into your crop rotation and business plan you will begin to prepare your ground for winter wheat planting. In doing so, you must first
take into consideration the nutritional
requirements of winter wheat and what your soil can offer. As with all crops, soil
testing is an essential element in growing a productive and
profitable crop of wheat. A soil test is critical to
assessing what capabilities your soil has and what
you will need to amend. Without a soil test you may
be missing yield opportunities by under fertilizing your crop or you may over fertilize
the crop wasting money, potentially causing issues
in your cropping system, and eating up profits. Fertilize your ground according to your soil
test recommendations using your local university’s guidelines. On a Penn State soil report the lime and fertilizer recommendations can be found in the middle
section of the report for the crops you provide. Did you know winter
kill can be more severe if pH of the soil is below six and/or phosphate availability is low? Up to 20 pounds of nitrogen and all the phosphorus and
potassium may be broadcast prior to planting or a portion applied with the drill and the
remainder broadcast. To reduce the likelihood
of fertilizer burn do not apply more than
15 pounds of nitrogen or 30 pounds of nitrogen
plus pot ash per acre in the row with the seed. Because of the potential for lodging it is very important
to take the full credit for manure and residual N from
previous manure applications for small grains. If plants did not tiller well in the fall top dress nitrogen at
greenup in early spring. University studies show
that applications made prior to greenup do not
result in any yield benefit compared to a slightly later application. Wheat does not require large amounts of N until stem elongation,
Feekes growth stage six. Therefore, top dress should occur any time up until growth stage five. Split N applications at greenup
in growth stage five to six could help reduce the
potential for lodging and N loss in a wet spring. This practice is
particularly useful in fields with a high yield potential
and high N recommendation that exhibit good tiller
development come spring. In most cases splitting N applications does not provide a significant
practical advantage. Prior to top dressing,
consider the soil conditions. Think through ways to decrease effects of traffic on the field during potentially wet spring conditions. When top dressing winter grains consider the potential for volatilization and loss of N fertilizer, particularly those
sourced from UAN and urea. To minimize loss try to apply UAN or urea prior to a half inch soaking rain. Some growers have chosen to intercrop a cover crop of radishes in
their planting of winter wheat with the idea that the
fast-growing radishes will scavenge nutrients the
wheat cannot otherwise reach and release in late winter for the wheat. Likewise, many producers have
had success frost seeding a relay crop of clover into wheat. More research on the benefits
and risks of these practices are being conducted and will be needed before further fertility
recommendations can be made in conjunction with their use. More information about
growing wheat for grain can be found in the Penn
State Agronomy Guide. Or visit the Penn State
Crops and Soils website to find an expert who can help you.

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