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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Late-Planted Wheat May Struggle This Winter

October 21, 2005

WOOSTER, Ohio — About a quarter of Ohio's wheat crop will be planted later than the recommended planting date, increasing the risk of winter kills, poor stand quality and minimal tiller development.

Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, said that late soybean harvest and occasional rain showers are holding up no-till wheat planting in some parts of the state. The delay is mainly in western and northwest Ohio, where the bulk of the state's crop is produced.

"We like to see no-till wheat planted within the first 10 days after the Hessian fly-safe date. For northern Ohio that date is around September 24," said Paul. "Growers should have gotten wheat in by the first two weeks of October. Now some growers are being forced to plant way beyond the recommended period."

The Hessian fly-safe date is a wheat-planting guide to help prevent injury from insects like the Hessian fly, and the spread of diseases, such as barley yellow dwarf virus. Additionally, planting within the safe date or soon thereafter reduce the risk of cold temperature injury.

Late planting can lead to a variety of problems for the crop.

"The chance of winter kill is increased with late-planted wheat," said Paul. "In addition, poor stand development is likely to occur in wheat that doesn't develop the appropriate number of tillers per foot of row."

In order to survive winter dormancy and produce a healthy crop in the spring, at least three to four tillers should be present on the plant. Generally, late-planted wheat produces two tillers, which may not be enough to carry the crop through winter.

"Even if the plant gets more than two tillers, it may not be hardy enough to withstand the winter conditions," said Paul.

To compensate for reduced tiller development in late-planted wheat, growers are recommended to increase their seeding rate from the standard 1.2-1.6 million seeds per acre to 1.6-2 million seeds per acre.

Paul also reiterated the importance of choosing the right variety for disease resistance, and planting at the appropriate depth to prevent heaving in the spring.

"In addition, applying fertilizer at planting is always a good idea to get the wheat crop off to a good start," said Paul.

Paul said that by now all of Ohio's wheat should be in the ground. According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Services, 73 percent of the wheat has been planted.

Candace Pollock
Pierce Paul