Wheat School: Evaluating more than seedling vigour at stand establishment

When it comes to emergence of the wheat crop, producers often have many hopes of what that should look like — without necessarily knowing how to manage those expectations.

Often, stand emergence is judged on seedling vigour. However, as Jeremy Boychyn, agronomy research extension specialist with the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions explains in this Wheat School episode, vigour isn’t the only factor you should be looking at.

“What I’ve seen in the past is the use of the vigour percentage almost as a mortality rate,” he says. “It’s important as a grower, or an agronomist, to take account for what your soil conditions are. Note what your seeding rate exactly is. Note what the soil temperature is. And then about three weeks later, go through, and do an actual plant stand assessment,” Boychyn says.

With the plant stand number in hand, go back and get an idea of how moisture conditions and soil temperatures impacted emergence. “If you do that year by year, you are going to get a better overall understanding of what your emergence will be each year,” he says.

Having that strong plant stand right off the bat is super critical to the development — and even final maturity — of the wheat crop. As Boychyn explains, it will even impact your ability to tackle weeds, as the spaces between the plants will allow for more room for sunlight to get into that soil surface, allowing weeds to grow. This can also lead to loss of efficiency of herbicides, and fertilizers, because of the weed competition. This too can lead to a higher risk of disease.

“Later on in the season, you are going to have potentially maturity challenges, so you are going to have a higher risk of fusarium head blight because you are going to have more tillers that come from a lower plant stand, and then in some research, we’ve seen that lower plant stands are actually going to extend the maturity,” he explains. “So you are going to have potentially more issues down the road as you are trying to get that crop off, and maybe even seeing some green seed, if you are having those late tillers coming in.”

Check out the full conversation between Jeremy Boychyn and RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis, below:

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