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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Wheat Planting Delays Raise Winter Worries

October 25, 2006

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Wet conditions and a slow soybean harvest continue to delay wheat planting throughout Ohio, raising concerns that the coming winter could have an impact on a crop struggling to get established.

According to the Ohio Agricultural Research Statistics Service, only about half of the winter wheat crop has been planted, nearly 30 percent behind last year's schedule and the five-year average. Only about 50 percent of the soybean crop has been harvested.

"Last year we had problems with late-planted wheat because of late soybean harvest and wet conditions, but this year it's even worse," said Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "Last year about this time, we had about 80 percent of the wheat already in the ground. Ideally, wheat should be planted by the second week of October to strike that balance between avoiding winter kill and minimizing Hessian fly and disease problems."

For growers who are forging ahead with late planting, the question many have is how late is too late to plant?

"It all depends on the weather during the fall and early winter," said Paul, who also holds a partial Ohio State University Extension appointment. "Wheat planted this late is certainly at greater risk for poor stand establishment (fewer tillers per foot-of-row), increased winter kill, and spring heaving. However, in any given year, if warmer-than-usual conditions occur during late fall or early winter, even wheat planted as late as the first week of November may still do fairly well."

There's not much growers can do to improve their planting situation, but they can increase winter wheat seeding rates to compensate for fewer tiller development in late planted wheat. Seeding rates are generally 1.2-1.6 million seeds per acre, or 18-24 seeds per foot-of-row for 7.5-inch rows. Growers are recommended to increase that rate to 1.6-2 million seeds per acre -- about 24-30 seeds per foot-of-row.

Wheat varieties that exhibit winter hardiness stand the best chance of doing well under late planting conditions. The Ohio Wheat Performance Trials can give growers an idea of which varieties tested will do well under Ohio's winter conditions. Log on to Ohio State's Agronomic Crops Team Web site at for more information.

Candace Pollock
Pierce Paul