Wheat School: An early season winter wheat survivability assessment

If you’re a winter wheat grower, early spring can be a nerve-wracking time to see the effect that winter had on the crop. A winter survivability assessment in early spring can help assess any damage. Plus, doing a stand count of healthy plants showing growth can give a more accurate prediction of how the crop will fare during the growing season.

Jeremy Boychyn, agronomy specialist with Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, joins Kara Oosterhuis in the field for this episode of the Wheat School.

“There’s a lot of things that factor into winter survivability of winter wheat,” says Boychyn. “We’re talking about variety selection, how much residue and how much straw is on that soil to protect that winter wheat as it’s coming through, so it’s important to get out to your own field to take a look.”

In order to scout, be sure to walk to different parts of the field, both good and bad, where there might have been a lot of snow and residue cover, but also check out the low spots.

In looking at the plants themselves, take a look at the area just above the seed — it should be a nice white colour. Up top, the leaves might be burnt or brown, but that’s just part of winter wheat survival. In field assessment is good, but if plants have not yet broken dormancy, you can bring some of those dug up seedlings inside, let them grow, and then you can assess new growth of roots and leaves.

“You’re really looking for a good strong root system and a good strong bit of stem beneath the surface,” says Boychyn. Count up how many plants per square foot have those characteristics. The aim is to have 40 to 45 plants per square foot, as a recommendation. If the plant stand is below 10 to 15 plants per foot squared, the field will need to be re-assessed for viability as a crop.

As for making that re-seeding decision, Boychyn recommends waiting until the usual time a crop would be spring seeded. If the field does need to be seeded to something else, be sure to consider the end market, and make sure to control any winter wheat that does re-grow.

Watch the full video below:

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