Wheat School: Determining your early nitrogen strategy

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What’s your nitrogen strategy for winter wheat?  When it comes to spring nitrogen applications, the first thing growers need to consider is their planting date, says RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson.

That planting date typically correlates with a specific amount of fall growth, which growers can use to guide them in their spring nitrogen applications. On this episode of the RealAgriculture Wheat School recorded March 27, 2020, Johnson looks at winter wheat with four different planting dates.

Early-planted wheat — Sept. 10 — shows massive growth and eight to 10 tillers per plant. In this case, it’s better to hold off on early nitrogen and plan for a late April application. Remember, trying to hold on to all those tillers with an early application is asking for trouble and significantly increases the risk of lodging, says Johnson.

Wheat planted on Sept. 23 really hits the “sweet spot,” says Johnson. This wheat has four to five tillers, but there could be trouble if the variety is susceptible to lodging. In this case, growers should not be pushing early nitrogen, but consider a split application. “Put some on in mid April, but save the rest of it for May once we get into stem elongation,” he notes.

A split application is also a consideration for Sept. 30-planted wheat with two tillers per plant. When it comes to late-planted wheat — Oct. 10 — that has just three or four leaves per plant and zero tillers, Johnson says growers can’t wait too long. This wheat needs early nitrogen to stimulate spring tillers.

Click here for more Wheat School episodes.

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