Good Soil Moisture Exists for Planting 2016 Wheat

Good Soil Moisture Exists for Planting 2016 Wheat

The unusual wet spring this year did more harm than good for wheat growers in western Nebraska. The wet weather brought disease and in much of the Panhandle, snow. Although the weather was a drag on this year's wheat yields, it may reward growers with favorable yields in 2016.

Year-to-date precipitation at the High Plains Ag Lab (HPAL) in Sidney is already over 18 inches. The average precipitation over the last 67 years at HPAL is 16.8 inches. With four months remaining, this year's rain totals will keep adding to this above-average year, providing good soil moisture for seeding winter wheat.

wheat seeding dates
Figure 1. Recommended seeding dates for wheat.
In Nebraska seed winter wheat from 30 to 180 lb per acre depending on the area, planting date, and whether irrigation is available. Adequate soil moisture will permit dryland wheat growers to seed their winter wheat on time. See recommended seeding dates in Figure 1.

Higher seeding rates should be used when planting late or when supplemental irrigation is available. The point of diminishing returns for seeding rate is 18 seeds per foot of row, no matter what row spacing is used. For further information, see the NebGuide, Seeding Rates for Winter Wheat in Nebraska (G2056).

CPC Forecast map
Figure 2. Precipitation outlook for September, October, and December of 2015.
CPC forecast
Figure 3. Precipitation outlook for March, April, and May of 2016.
El Niño is predicted to continue into the spring of 2016 and may impact normal weather patterns. Climate Prediction Center models indicate a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through the winter, and an 85% chance it will persist into early spring. For Nebraska growers it is expected to bring an increased probability of rain in the next three months along with normal temperatures (Figure 2).

Looking ahead to next year, the Climate Prediction Center is predicting normal temperatures and precipitation for Nebraska. See Figure 3 for the precipitation forecast for March, April, and May.

Nutrient Management for 2016 Wheat Crop

With the possibility of favorable weather for the 2016 wheat crop, soil nutrients need to be properly managed to achieve optimum yields. Typically, as rainfall in dryland areas increases, yield potential increases. With the wet year we just had, many growers did not provide adequate nitrogen to their wheat crops and yield and quality suffered. Dryland growers are naturally hesitant of committing too many inputs into a crop for fear sufficient rain will not come to realize their expected yields. Split fertilizer applications allow the grower to protect themselves from the financial risk of applying too much fertilizer while also protecting yields.

Split fertilizer applications can be applied as needed to a wheat crop. Growers can apply a minimal amount nitrogen and phosphorus in the fall to stimulate growth. In the spring and as favorable weather and precipitation persist, growers can fertilize their wheat crop to increase yield potential and protect grain quality. Growers should evaluate the crop's yield potential based on plant stands and moisture then add nitrogen as recommended in the NebGuide Fertilizing Winter Wheat.

Conditions are right for a good 2016 wheat crop. Use the tools and information provided at for managing all aspects of your wheat crop. Information will be added throughout the growing season to address issues growers are facing.

Cody Creech
Dryland Cropping Systems Specialist

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