We’ve been talking about herbicides in small grain, but now is time to sidedress. The most N our small grain needs 130 lbs, but 100 will do in most cases. We do not put all N out in the fall because we do not want plants to grow too much which will injury head during cold weather. We have seen this already this year, mostly in our oats.
The demand for N is low during the fall but increased just before stem elongation. We wait until January and February to put out most of our N before stem elongation. We put out recommended N at planting then finish our total N during side dressing. We count tillers and determine if we sidedress one or two times.
These tillers are like multiple stems that will each have a head. More tillers give us more grain heads which means more kernels and higher yield.
The reason I write this is to discuss the need to split our N. This is the time of year when we want to count our tillers in a square foot. If the field is drilled (usually 7.5 inch rows) then 19 feet of the row would equal a square foot. If we do not have 80 tillers per square foot, then we split side dress applications to the last week of January and the next application the second week of February.
If we have 90 – 100 or so tillers per square foot and good growth and don’t see much yellowing of the older foliage, we can wait until the 2nd week of February to put out all of our sidedress fertilizer.
What about small grain for seed?
That is textbook and simple, but what if getting high yield is not life or death and we don’t want to make so many trips across the field? I spoke with the new grain agronomist with UGA, Dr. Regan Noland today. He said in his trials, his wheat and rye are laid out but oats are growing more erect. In the county, I’m seeing the exact same thing, our oats are almost jointing. I’m not feeling the node come out of the ground just yet, but the oats are a bit ahead.
In the case with these oats that may be grown for cover seed next year, go ahead and put all your sidedress out right now. That is not a big deal. The remaining small grain still laid out, we can split if we have time. This will encourage new tillers before it hits reproductive stage.