One of the hardest decisions with growing winter wheat or winter barley is evaluating the amount of winter kill and making the decision whether to keep a stand. Winter cereals are planted in the fall and develops in the spring during relatively ideal conditions for tiller development.
Therefore the optimum plant stands of winter cereals can be less than that of their spring counter parts. A stand of 900,000 – 1,000,000 plants/acre or 21 – 23 plants/ft2 will be enough to maximize grain yield.
Winter kill is to be expected in Minnesota. The least amount of winter kill is to be expected with rye, while winter barley is only marginal winter hardy for Minnesota. This past winter was not very cold but snow cover was intermittent which means that some winter kill is likely this year. Roots are generally less winter hardy than crowns and regrowth may be slower than expected.
This past week was probably the first time that evaluating surviving plant density was fairly straightforward. The problem that remains, however, is that winter survival in all likelihood will variable within a field and depending on topography (windblown hilltops having less stand than protected areas of the field).
If stands are reduced uniformly across the field, stands of 17 plants/ft2 can still produce near maximum grain yields. If there are bare areas due to desiccation or drown-out consider replanting a spring cereal in those areas.
Mixing of Hard Red Spring and Hard Red Winter wheat varieties maybe not ideal for management of the field itself as the areas will likely grow and mature at different rates but it should not pose a problem with marketing as they are not contrasting classes of grain as defined by the Federal Grain Inspection Service.