Before seed even goes in the ground, farmers are asking the question: how do I make the most of this crop? How do I ensure my yield potential is where it should be?
Jeremy Boychyn, agronomy research extension manager with the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, joins us in our latest episode of the Wheat School to discuss what can be focused on across Western Canada in order to maximize wheat performance.
Although Western Canada is a large geography, and we don’t want to paint it with one brush, there are a few main things you’re going to want to focus on, says Boychyn: selecting the right wheat variety, soil testing, seeding date, and seeding rates and depth.
Selecting the right wheat variety
When looking at selecting the right variety, you’re not only going to want to look at what is best suited to growing conditions and management practices, but also the stress pressure profile.
“What do I mean by pressure profile? What diseases you’re dealing with. Are you dealing with lodging? Are you dealing with insects? What market are you trying to sell into?” he explains, noting these are all questions you want to ask when selecting a new variety. (Story continues below video)
The next thing we want to consider is getting a soil test done, as it gives us a platform to make informed decisions about fertilizer.
“We want to use [our fertilizer] in an efficient way with a 4R nutrient stewardship system. Have the right source, the right rate, the right place, and the right time, and make sure that we’re putting on the correct amount of fertilizer to get the most out of that ground to maximize that yield potential on the fertility side,” he explains.
Seed-bed preparation, says Boychyn, really starts in the fall, when you are harvesting the previous crop, and looking at chaff distribution.
“If it has poor distribution behind your combine, it’s going to affect variability of moisture, germination, and seeding quality across that field, which is going to cause variable emergence, variable crop staging.”
Seeding date and depth
Beyond that, he says once we get into spring, there’s a few considerations for seeding dat and time. We really want to be thinking about narrowing those two in to make sure we’re making the most out of the growing conditions we’re working on.
“So seeding date, we know based on research from Brian Beres, that with spring wheat, the best time to be seeding for maximum yield potential and maintaining yield consistency, we want to be targeting that two-to-six degree soil temperature at five centimetres depth,” Boychyn explains.
Typically, we are looking at the 2.5 centime depth for seeding depth — which is going to give you good emergence and establish things quickly. This does depend on conditions, however.
“If you’re in drier conditions, you could move a little bit deeper. But the danger of getting too deep to target moisture is the maybe we get into this variable emergence again, because we’re getting into moisture in some conditions. But in other areas, maybe on hilltops, it’s a little bit drier, and we don’t get that germination as quickly, then we see a variable emergence due to variable germination.
Seeding rates of course depend on where you are growing, what class of wheat you’re growing, and the growing conditions you are dealing with.
“If you’re in a higher moisture area, you may want to bump those seeding rates up to 350 seeds per meter squared, maybe even a little bit higher. But if you’re in drier conditions, there just might be a little bit too much competition for those resources, so it may no the as high of a rate in that 300 seeds per meter squared or a little bit higher. So targeting good seeding rates, and then also working with high quality seeds.”