UNL CropWatch Sept. 3, 2010: Recommended Seeding Dates for Winter Wheat in Nebraska

UNL CropWatch Sept. 3, 2010: Recommended Seeding Dates for Winter Wheat in Nebraska


Map of recommended planting dates

Figure 1. Recommended planting dates for Nebraska winter wheat.

Sept. 3, 2010

How Unusual was 2009?

North Platte's old snowfall record for October was 10.5 inches and its average snowfall for October is 0.9 inches.

With the fall weather we experienced in 2009 — North Platte had 32 inches of snow in October – winter wheat fields that were seeded early had some of the best yields. While early seeding worked in 2009, this snowfall was certainly an exception to the norm and we would caution producers against early seeding wheat. Usually there is more to be lost than to be gained from early seeding.

As you plan your planting season, take into account that when you increase the number of acres being planted, you increase how long it will take.More of the wheat seeding may occur both before and after the suggested seeding date because of increased seeding time. Recommended seeding dates for winter wheat are shown in Figure 1.

Table 1. Winter wheat seeding data and yield at North Platte.  
Seeding date
Yield (bu/ac)

September 2
September 15
September 25

Seeding date can have a major effect on the yield of winter wheat. For example, Table 1 shows how yields varied with three seeding dates at North Platte.

The seeding date for winter wheat varies substantially as we move across the state. Research to show the best seeding date began many years ago. Each year producers verify these dates through observation of fields seeded earlier or later than the ideal date. Some years an earlier seeding may have an advantage and some years a later date may have an advantage. In the long term, the suggested seeding dates will give the highest average yield.

As a starting point, you should try to have the wheat seeded by the ideal date. You can improve on the average by seeding the higher elevation fields and those containing sandy soil first. Leave the lower fields and those with higher clay content until last.

The dates shown in Figure 1 are based on several factors. In the Panhandle, the dates depend on elevation. Using this method, producers can find the ideal date for each field by knowing the elevation. Using a starting point of September 15 for 3500 feet, add one day for each 100 feet lower and subtract one day for each 100 feet higher in elevation. For the rest of the state, the dates of Sept. 25 and later are set to avoid Hessian fly infestation. The date is after flies lay their eggs.

Tips for Late-Planted Wheat

Some years, due to natural delays or other factors, you may need to plant winter wheat later than you had planned. Take added measures to ensure that this late planting — when seeding occurs a week or more after the ideal date — is successful.

For recommendations, see Suggestions to Compensate for Late Seeding Winter Wheat in this week's CropWatch.

Reasons for Delayed Planting

Delaying wheat planting can help

  • Reduce the risk of wheat streak mosaic virus, Russian wheat aphids, crown and root rot
  • Avoid too much fall growth. Excessive fall growth uses valuable moisture and can stress the plant

Reasons for Early Planting

There are several reasons for seeding early:

  • To get adequate ground cover to avoid erosion from wind or water
  • To get adequate plant growth to assure winter hardiness
  • To quicken maturity the following summer and avoid excessive heat stress


The recommended dates are a guide rather than an absolute deadline. Each producer should make adjustments to ensure the seeding dates fit the conditions of his or her farm.

Robert Klein
Extension Western Nebraska Crops Specialist


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