Wheat School: Evaluating precision wheat stands

Will precision planting pay when it comes to winter wheat yield? How do things like down force and row spacing contribute to a more uniform winter wheat stand?

In this Wheat School episode, we’ve got our latest research update from the Follings Research Farm with Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson and Joanna Follings, cereals specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

You may recall that in a previous Wheat School episode, Follings and Johnson looked at the difference between emergence using four different drills.

The main objective of this whole project is to determine how to get the winter wheat stand more uniform and in the video, Follings and Johnson point out some differences in plant stands and the outcomes of how those precision drills performed. (Story continues below video.)

Johnson notes that one of the most interesting things they see is that where there’s seeder force, there’s a great stand, but once it’s on the corn row, without seeder force, the stand “falls apart.” The pair are also looking at row spacing at the site.

Research out of Michigan State University showed a 10 bushel per acre yield difference going from 5 inch rows to 7.5 inch rows. Furthermore, when jumping from 5 inch to 15 inch row spacing, there was a 27 bushel per acre yield difference, which is unheard of in Ontario, notes the duo.

Follings says that out of that research, earlier planted winter wheat in narrower row spacing doesn’t see a lot of yield benefit, but when looking at the later planted winter wheat data, the narrow rows really made a difference in yield.

Narrower rows — while the yield benefit is somewhat still a question mark — seem to be providing better weed control. “What’s been really interesting at this site, is we can really see the value in narrow row in terms of weed control,” says Follings.

It’s critical to get out in the field and see what weeds are actively growing with wider row spacing and as Johnson notes that 90 per cent of weed control can come from a closed canopy.

Stay tuned for more on this project, to follow all the way through to harvest, but in the meantime you can check out more episodes of the Wheat School here.

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