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Basic rules for planting wheat this fall – Oklahoma State University

Monday, October 4, 2021

Media Contact:
Donald Stotts | Agricultural Communications Services | 405-744-4079 | donald.stotts@okstate.edu

Although some of Oklahoma received rain showers as October began, many wheat growers
in the state are facing drought conditions as they plant their fall crop.

There is always risk involved when planting wheat in dry conditions, both in general
and for specific types of operations, said Amanda de Oliveira Silva, Oklahoma State University Extension small grains specialist.

“For example, dual-purpose wheat producers should determine the amount of forage their
operations will need when charting out their livestock feed supplies, in addition
to concerns every wheat grower may have about planting and crop performance,” she
said.

OSU Extension recommendations are that seed depth be between 1 to 1½ inch when planting
wheat. Oklahoma doesn’t typically experience the winter kill issues seen in more northerly
states.

Producers who choose to “dust in” wheat at an optimum planting date are essentially
betting that October will bring sufficient rainfall to their area. The good news is
the seed should remain viable in the soil provided it hasn’t germinated. Be cautious
with in-furrow nitrogen or potassium fertilizers as they can damage the seed and make
it more challenging for the seed to absorb moisture needed for germination.

“The biggest risk for wheat planted into dry soils would be if a light rain occurs
and the seed gets just enough moisture to germinate but not enough for the seedlings
to emerge through the soil or to survive very long if dry conditions return,” Silva
said. “Also, if a heavy rain occurs in a short period of time, it could peak the seed
and cause issues with emergence.”

Silva recently provided additional insights about “dusting in” wheat on the agricultural
television show SUNUP.

Wheat that emerges in October may still reach its yield potential but fall forage
yield may be reduced.

For grain-only enterprises, the optimum time for planting wheat for most regions of
Oklahoma is mid-October. Planting winter wheat in November leaves less time for the
crop to develop tillers and roots, which could affect yield potential.

“In this case, producers need to adapt their seeding rate to offset the shorter period
between planting and the arrival of harsher weather conditions,” Silva said.

Grain-only wheat growers probably will need to increase seeding rates if planting
is delayed to November and December, according to OSU Extension recommendations. Consider
using a fungicide seed treatment to help with establishment by preventing diseases
caused by fungi. A starter fertilizer may be beneficial as well.

“Be sure to test the soil to assess the potential need of fertilizers and most effectively
manage input costs,” Silva said. “Soil testing removes much of the guesswork and is
therefore a good risk management tool.”

Fact sheets detailing research-based information and recommendations for planting
wheat are available online and through all OSU Extension county offices.