As the fall wheat planting season approaches, Herb Ohm, a Purdue research agronomist, says growers can increase their chances for a successful winter wheat crop by properly preparing seed beds and selecting high-quality seed.
Growers should plant in the two weeks following the Hessian fly-free date. In northern Indiana the fly-free date is Sept. 22, and growers in the southern part of the state typically won't see Hessian flies after Oct. 8.
Following these guidelines not only prevents fly damage, but as importantly, it also helps avoid foliar fungus diseases.
At seeding, Ohm recommended that growers apply about 25-35 lbs. nitrogen/acre. Prior to stem elongation in the early spring they can follow up with 90-100 lbs. – more in wet weather.
"It's also important to make sure that you seed deep enough – typically 1-1.5 in., because if the fall season is dry the plants might be delayed or not germinate at all, if seeded to shallow", Ohm says.
In the next few weeks, growers can send a soil sample to a commercial lab, especially if several years have passed since farmers last tested for soil fertility.
Seed variety selection can help prevent Fusarium head blight or head scab. The fungus overwinters in corn crop residue and develops in the spring season, and infects wheat especially during wheat flowering; it also produces a vomitoxin that is harmful to humans and livestock, especially poultry and hogs.
"Everyone should be looking for a variety with at least moderate resistance to Fusarium," Ohm says. "But even moderate resistance isn't good enough to limit fungal infections. Growers need to spray. On the other hand, just spraying on a susceptible variety isn't good enough either – especially in conditions that are favorable to the fungus, such as warm and humid or rainy weather, as in 2010 and 2011. So in these types of seasons it is essential to use varieties with resistance together with fungicide application during wheat flowering for control of the disease."
In addition to head scab resistance, farmers can purchase varieties with resistance to other diseases, such as Septoria leaf blotch, glume blotch and wheat rusts.
Also important to consider are milling and baking qualities and productivity. For yield performance data, Ohm says growers should contact both the seed dealer and variety developer – whether a university or a private company.
"Many Indiana producers are looking at straw production; therefore, they need varieties that are a little bit taller, but not so tall that it experiences lodging problems," Ohm says. "Other things to be aware of are maturity dates and yield production history."