A month after my post in February, Rick DeBrabandere showed me some pictures from a ski trip across his wheat field during the 3rd week of March.
Making the decision to take out a wheat crop is not easy. Most agronomists would advise against it because the future is so hard to predict. There is some comfort in the devil that you know vs the unknown. Some questions to ask yourself.
What is the rotation history on this farm?
What about future rotations? There is still a rotation benefit to keeping the wheat.
Do you have soybean cyst nematode?
What is your crop insurance yield guarantee?
Do you need straw?
Will you need a place to spread manure in August?
Was the plan to put in a cover crop after wheat to improve soil structure or provide additional feed?
If the plan is to keep a damaged field what can you do to make the most out of a tough situation?
- Treat it like a wheat crop. Don't give up. Put on a full rate of N and maybe a little more, control weeds, apply fungicides, do everything you can to make the good areas yield well. The crop still has to be managed and will respond to inputs.
- If you can work with the feed grain, plant barley in the thin spots and combine separately.
- Spread single cut clover to establish in the weak areas and help keep weeds in check.
- Come back with cover crops to improve soil structure.
If the decision is made to start over what is the best strategy?
- Spray glyphosate sooner than later. Two reasons. It makes the decision permanent and you want the wheat dead before the planter goes across the field. Wheat is hard to kill with tillage. If you disturb it and then spray it is also harder to kill. Where the wheat stand is healthy the soil will stay wet and gummy because of the sugars and resins that exude from the roots. This makes for variable seedbed conditions. Kill the wheat and let the roots start to decay as soon as possible. Even half a day can make a difference.
- If you choose to plant soybeans there is a 10% yield loss to 2nd year soybeans. If SCN is around the yield penalty could be higher.
- You should be able to no-till corn or beans without tillage. At the most one shallow tillage pass is enough for a seed bed.
- If corn is planted, account for the N already applied to the wheat.
- If soybeans are planted don't worry about nitrogen causing problems. The soybeans won't care, nodulation will still occur, the crop will survive and do well. An exception to this would be a field with a long history of white mold infection.
It has been said that a poor wheat crop will cause a headache in the spring. The headache will disappear in June when the crop looks much better, but the headache will return at harvest. The 2014 wheat crop will definitely be a source of headaches.