Plows and Pitchforks

Plows and Pitchforks
The recent dry conditions have spurred many producers to think about planting an alternative crop this fall.

Recently, I have been getting questions about winter wheat production. Clay County is not classified as a winter wheat county, according to crop insurance coverage rules. However, crop insurance on winter wheat should be available by written contract with your crop insurance agency.

The South Dakota Cooperative Extension service has recently published Extension Extra 8136 titled "2006 Winter Wheat Variety Yield Results and Planting Tips." Copies can be obtained by visiting your county Extension office.


ExEx 8136 was authored by John Rickertsen, Thandiwe Nleya, and Amir Ibrahim. It covers issues such as delaying planting until it rains, planting into dry soil, seeding depth, and seeding rates.

When considering planting winter wheat this season, topsoil moisture conditions can be a major issue. Recent rains have helped the southeastern portion of the state, but many producers do not have adequate soil moisture in the top three or four feet of the profile.

According to the Extension Extra here in South Dakota, the recommended time to plant winter wheat is Sept. 15 to Oct. 10. If producers wait to plant winter wheat until after Oct. 10, the likelihood of winter injury greatly increases.

Winter wheat is a fairly hardy crop, needing little soil moisture to germinate, however, once the seeds have germinated, the plant needs more available moisture to continue its growth. Seeding into such dry soil could result in the crop not germinating until the following spring. Under those conditions, producers may want to consider waiting to see if there is adequate moisture for a spring planted crop.

The Extension publication also mentions the temptation of planting deep to allow the seed to reach moisture. Planting deeper than 2 inches reduces emergence and can result in weak, spindly seedlings possessing poor vigor.

The best thing to do is plant 1 1/2 to 2 inches in a firm seedbed with a good seed to soil contact. For direct seeding, a uniform depth of 1-1 1/2 inches under optimum moisture conditions will provide a good stand."

A good stand also follows the recommended seeding rate of 22 pure live seeds per square foot, or (960,000 seeds/acre). SDSU also recommends increasing the pure live seed per acre to 28 if your seedbed can be considered poor.

More information about winter wheat production can be obtained on Thursday, Aug. 24, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Menno Legion Hall. The SDSU Cooperative Extension Service will host a winter wheat production clinic featuring soils specialist Jim Gerwing and West River Ag Center agronomist Thandiwe Nleya.

Nleya will discuss winter wheat varieties, performance and general management issues. Gerwing will provide fertility recommendations and information about using late nitrogen applications to boost protein content.

South 2 Field Education Unit Agronomists Connie Strunk, Matt Bernau, and Steve Sutera will give a 2006 disease summary with recommendations for the 2007 season. There is no charge for the program and everyone is welcome to attend.

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