This past November, Ohio experienced very cold and wet conditions. The late-planted wheat fields therefore had a smaller window of time for growth. When cold weather sets in early, fall tiller production becomes difficult. This has been hard on wheat this year, including our lack of snow cover, a lot of standing water, saturated soils, sheets of ice and very cold temperatures.
Producers have been asking about applying nitrogen earlier this year, to increase spring tillers. While this may seem like a valid solution, keep in mind that most yield from wheat fields come from fall tillers. These tillers are usually much larger than spring tillers. According to Ed Lentz, CCA, producers will have limited success in improving yields of poor stands and stands with reduced-growth by applying nitrogen earlier. This also could increase the risk of nitrogen loss. He also says, producers may have to readjust their yield potential and reduce their nitrogen rate accordingly.
When wheat reaches Feekes GS 6 (jointing), usually in the later part of April, they start to use the most nitrogen. Ohio research has shown no yield advantage for nitrogen applied before jointing. It is also important to remember the nitrogen source you are using. Some have a greater potential for loss. When nitrogen is applied before green up, Ohio research shows that yield losses may occur. Of course, this all depends on the weather that year.
There is also concern from growers that the wet weather will prevent applications of nitrogen at early stem elongation. A solution to this may be topdressing wheat fields with nitrogen after initial green-up to Feekes GS 6. Because there is still potential for loss, the producer should use a nitrogen source that has lower potential for loss, such as, urea or ammonium sulfate. This careful decision on nitrogen source is only important up to jointing. The percentage used will need to be increased with ESN applications closer to Feekes GS 6.
Though Ohio State University research shows no yield increase from a split application of nitrogen, this may be used to spread risk of loss and improve efficiency. The first application should be applied no sooner than green up and a smaller rate should be used first. The larger rate should be applied closer to Feekes GS 6.
We know this has been a rough year for some wheat fields. The Universities recommendation would be to top dress nitrogen when fields are suitable and after green up. For more questions on wheat applications please contact us today. We want you to get the best from this year’s wheat stands. We have beneficial nutritional products that can be applied with your nitrogen passes this year. Making the most of your passes could be crucial for wheat crops.