Winter Wheat Greening Up; Limited Moisture a Factor in Some Areas

Winter Wheat Greening Up; Limited Moisture a Factor in Some Areas

Soil moisture levels ranges significantly from one area to another in western Nebraska. The top field, in has only 4 inches of soil moisture at this point. The bottom field has a full soil moisture profile down 48 inches, as indicated by the soil moisture probe.

Wheat is out of dormancy and greening up across the state, although growth stage is delayed, report Extension specialists and educators.

Western Nebraska

Bob Klein, Extension Western Nebraska Crops Specialist: Winter wheat conditions in southwest and west central Nebraska vary from poor to excellent with most fields in the fair to good range. Subsoil moisture is low in many fields.

The winter wheat is behind normal in growth stage with late-seeded winter wheat being the furthest behind in development.

There is some winter injury and some fields or parts of fields have suffered from wind erosion. The winter injury was greatest where the winter wheat was seeded into loose fluffy seedbeds or where the crown was shallow and did not develop into firm soil at least one-half inch below the soil surface. Winter wheat seeded in the tractor tire tracks of loose seedbeds had less injury than the rest of the field.

Producers with questionable fields are asking if they should go ahead and apply nitrogen fertilizer and a herbicide for weeds. Our advice is to apply nitrogen fertilizer as soon as possible but do not include the herbicide. (Our general fertilizer recommendation for wheat is to apply the spring nitrogen as soon as field conditions permit.) Remember that winter wheat will not respond to the fertilizer until there's been enough precipitation to move it into the root zone.

Fertilizer and herbicide combinations have been known to increase plant stress on wheat and reduce yields. Many herbicides also can limit later cropping options if the stand is determined to be unsatisfactory. If subsoil moisture is short, replanting to another crop may not be successful. Check the herbicide label to apply by the proper growth stage.

Always check with your crop insurance and farm service agency representatives before making any cropping system changes.

Karen DeBoer, Extension Educator in Cheyenne County:  Wheat is greening up here and some looks pretty good, depending on when it was planted. Some also looks poor; we had high wind events that blew out some wheat, causing growers to resort to emergency tillage in January to rough up the soil and reduce erosion. We've received some moisture and soil moisture conditions are fairly good.

John Thomas, Cropping System Extension Educator in Box Butte County in the northern Panhandle: Our wheat is coming out of dormancy and starting to grow. We have some wheat in all conditions but my overall rating of the wheat would be good. Based on my observations and discussion with a seed wheat producer and local co-op, condition is rated at very poor, 5%; poor, 15%; fair, 30%; good, 30%; and excellent, 20%.

Early planted wheat in Saline County, 2014 Late planted wheat in Saline County, 2014

Differences in planting date last fall are apparent in these two fields in Saline County. (Left) This field was planted before an Oct. 3 rainstorm, while the field on the right was planted when the grower could get back in.

Central and Eastern Nebraska

Randy Pryor, Extension educator in Saline County: Spring green-up of wheat has finally arrived. A survey of fields showed good plant health and no disease. All the stands I observed Friday  are greening up well and have adequate potential. I have not heard of any wheat stands in southeast Nebraska that did not overwinter well or that were too thin to keep.

There is a difference in growth as expected with fall planting dates. An October 3, 2013 storm with 2 inches of rain hit at harvest time last fall.  Any no-till wheat planted into bean stubble before this event looks very good and is growing into adequate moisture. The top 4-5 inches of topsoil is very dry; a partial profile below offers adequate moisture to sustain growth for now.

On the planting dates into soybean stubble ground after the fall storm event, this wheat is just starting to grow well. There is about 1 inch of very dry, loose soil with good moisture below that.  With only a trace of moisture in March, the soil is very loose and dry at the surface. 

Additional reports from the following IANR faculty and staff indicated that wheat was greening up well and looking fairly good across the state: Gary Stone, Scottsbluff; Ron Seymour, Hastings, Keith Stewart, Mead, and Paul Jasa and Teshome Regassa, Lincoln.

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