Wheat School: Keep an open mind when assessing wheat emergence issues


Every year, there seems to be times we have more questions about the crop than others.

As the wheat crop is emerging is often one of those times.

In order to get those questions answered properly, there’s a few different things you’re going to need to do, says Jeremy Boychyn, agronomy research extension specialist with the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions.

One of the keys, says Boychyn, is not to assume the first thing that comes to mind when diagnosing an issue.

“The approach I like to take is to kind of prove myself wrong. If I can’t prove myself wrong in my first assumption, then maybe it is that.”

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

So how do you avoid making those assumptions? Boychyn recommends looking at an issue through four different lenses: a field scale, a plant scale, a mechanical scale, and a time scale. And of course — take pictures of what you are seeing, and make note of what you are finding.

Field scale

Looking at field scale, explains Boychyn, we need to ask ourselves the question of what are the actual issues showing up.

“Are they on hilltops? Are they in low areas? If you do variable rates, maybe you have field maps of what your soil is like in different areas of the field,” he says. “Maybe you can even actually draw a picture of the field, and indicate in that picture, kind of an impromptu picture of where that’s showing up in the field.”

Plant scale

This is where we start digging up plants, pulling them up, and identifying what symptoms are actually showing up on the plant.

“Are they on the new leaves? Are they on older leaves? Is the symptom showing up in the root system? Is it scattered? Does it not show up on any particular leaf or any particular area? Does it seem to be on different parts of the plant on different plants?” Boychyn asks.

Mechanical scale

This is one that could be tied into field scale, but as Boychyn notes, he likes to separate it, because it helps break it down into sections.

“Are there any indicators that this could be a mechanical issue? Are there straight lines down the field where symptoms are showing up? Does it potentially overlap at the headlands?” he says. “When you’re looking into that mechanical question, you can ask where they are potentially showing up?”

Time scale

Although time scale can be a bit more complex, Boychyn warns this is one you don’t want to skip over, as it can be very telling of what’s going on.

“This requires you to ask the question of what maybe biological, environmental, or mechanical conditions — including maybe herbicide or fertilizer applications — happened over the past 18 months in this area. And then when you have these visual diagnosis or visual symptoms that you’ve written down, you can then start to align them with some of these time scale things that have happened, like a fertilizer application that happened in the fall,” he says.

When you compile all of this information together, you can begin to ask the question of what symptoms are aligning, and which ones aren’t, with that original assumption, so you can paint a full picture of what’s going on in your field.

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