WOOSTER, Ohio - A late soybean harvest in some parts of Ohio has delayed winter wheat planting, causing concern that farmers may have difficulty in establishing a good crop if planting occurs too far beyond the Hessian fly-free date.
The Hessian fly-free date, used by growers to determine when to begin planting their wheat crop to avoid insect damage, has passed and farmers who have yet to plant their wheat should do so now. "If you look at the long-term data, the best yields occur when you plant within seven-to-10 days after that fly-free date," said Ohio State University plant pathologist Pat Lipps. "We'd like to see growers have their wheat in the ground by October 20 if possible. That seems to be the cut-off date when yields start to decline." This season's drought conditions have delayed soybean harvest in parts of the state. "Two things affect wheat planting: the soybean harvest and weather conditions. If we have poor weather conditions or the soybeans come off late, farmers tend to plant less wheat," said Lipps. Growers who intend to plant wheat are advised to treat their seed, select fields for the crop and choose varieties that can potentially produce high yields, high test weights and resist diseases, such as powdery mildew and head scab. "We recommend that all seed in Ohio be treated before planting," said Lipps. "Soils right now are pretty dry, which sort of concerns us because root and seedling blight diseases are common in dry soil conditions because it takes plants longer to germinate and get out of the ground." Producers are advised to apply 20-30 pounds of nitrogen during planting preparation to help the young wheat plants develop a viable root system. "It's also important for growers to get a proper planting depth. Seed should be planted an inch to an inch and a half deep," said Lipps. "Shallow planting can result in heaving problems which affects yield." Lipps said growers should also spend time analyzing which wheat varieties would perform well in Ohio before planting. "Yield, of course, is the number one characteristic. But growers should also choose varieties that produce good test weights because they get paid based on total grain weight and pounds per bushel. They should select varieties that also have good standability and winter hardiness, and show resistance to diseases," he said. "There are 60-70 varieties available for planting in Ohio and about 20 of them are major performers. Choosing the right variety is probably one of the most important things a grower can do." The 2001 Ohio Wheat Performance Test, compiled by OARDC and Ohio State Extension researchers that outlines performance of wheat varieties, is available at http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/wheat2001/. Growers can also contact seed companies or their local OSU Extension office to obtain information on wheat varieties. The economic outlook on this season's wheat crop is not very optimistic because of overabundance in the market and little change in price, but Lipps urges growers to plant wheat as an alternative crop to alleviate other crop and/or soil problems. "Wheat can be used to help break the cycle of some soybean diseases associated with continuous soybean planting," said Lipps. "A wheat crop also improves organic matter levels helping the soil maintain fertility and improving soil tilth. These secondary effects that wheat creates can be very important to a grower." Ohio growers seeded 1.01 million acres of winter wheat last year, down 10 percent from the previous year. This year, it is estimated that growers will seed approximately 900,000 acres.