In a year when drought has caused some soybean growers to harvest later than normal and heavy rains prevented others from getting into their fields for fall planting, many have been slow to get winter wheat planted, according to an Ohio State University Extension expert.
Growers still have a chance for good wheat yields if conditions are right, said Laura Lindsey, an OSU Extension specialist in soybeans and small grains.
Although the best time to plant winter wheat is within 10 days after the fly-free-safe date for Hessian flies, which in northern Ohio this year was Sept. 22-30 and in southern Ohio was Oct. 1-5, growers might find that there still could be time to get seeds in the ground, she said.
“Especially for growers in southern Ohio,” Lindsey said. “Growers in northern Ohio have a smaller window as it is getting late.
“It all depends on the weather. November is getting late, but if we have a mild enough winter, you could still have a good yield.”
The Hessian fly date ensures that wheat growers are less likely to experience infestation and crop damage from Hessian flies. Hessian fly maggots cause damage to wheat crops by feeding on the crown and base of the wheat leaf.
“Ohio counties are now well past the 10-day window for optimum wheat planting,” she said. “Wheat fall growth is reduced when planting is delayed, resulting in reduced winter hardiness.”
However, if freezing weather does not occur until late November or early December, wheat planted up to three weeks after the fly-free-safe date can achieve the same yield as wheat planted within 10 days of that date, Lindsey said.
Lindsey, who is also an assistant professor of horticulture and crop science at Ohio State, said growers who are planting now should consider increasing their seeding rate to 2 million seeds per acre or 24-30 seeds per foot of row to compensate for reduced winter hardiness.
As of the week ending Oct. 21, about 67 percent of the winter wheat crop was planted, compared to 76 percent for the five-year average, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture crop report. At the same time, about 63 percent of the soybeans have been harvested, compared to 68 percent for the five-year average, the report said.