Is It Time for Nitrogen Applications on Wheat?

Timing is Everything

If you’re an entrepreneur, the location of where you put your business could make or break you. Most of us have heard the phrase, “location, location, location.” It determines a lot when it comes to the success of your business. If you’re a wheat farmer you could change that phrase to, “timing, timing, timing,” because it has played a major role in this year’s stand of wheat. We have seen some notable stand comparisons in wheat that have only a week’s difference in planting date. The timing of planting date has proven to have an effect on wheat this year, but the timing of your nitrogen application should be your next most important order of business.

Promoting Tiller Growth

If nitrogen is not applied at the right time, there is a potential to hurt yields significantly. According to Peter Scharf, a professor of Plant Science in MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, March may be the grower’s most ideal time to top dress. In order to determine how soon your wheat field needs an application, start evaluating your stands now. If you have a thin winter stand, you may need to apply fertilizer soon to stimulate new tiller growth.

Field Scouting

While out scouting fields recently, we met with a grower that had a field of wheat with a 1 ½ week planting date difference. You can see from the pictures below that the wheat planted on October 5th (first picture) has a much thicker stand than the wheat planted on the later date. Performing a tiller count on this wheat also showed that there is a need for nitrogen early. A tiller count below 70 square foot indicates a need for nitrogen at Feekes 3.

Planting Date: Oct. 5th

Planted 1.5 weeks later








A split application on wheat is most recommended:
1st application- late winter (mid-Feb. to early March)
2nd application- mid to late March

This will reduce lodging potential and give you a better chance for high yielding wheat. Make sure you get the timing right on nitrogen applications. After wheat starts growing rapidly, you may have missed your window. While timing is a huge piece in your winter wheat nitrogen plan, the nitrogen source, application and rate are also important to get right. Please contact a sales team member for more information regarding some beneficial products to incorporate this year.


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