Michigan Wheat: 3 Considerations for Seeding the 2019 Winter Crop

    Wheat planter in field. Photo: Kansas State University

    1. Seeding date

    Ideally, winter wheat is planted while the soil and air temperatures are still warm to insure the seedlings can emerge quickly in plenty of time to develop a couple of tillers and a strong root system. In fact, beginning in late September, potential wheat yields tend to slip at least one bushel for every day planting is delayed. This relationship may not hold, however, once the calendar reaches late October as soil and weather conditions tend to play a more important role.

    While the Hessian fly no longer poses a significant threat to wheat in Michigan, the fly-free-date is still a useful reference. The fly-free-date is during the first week of September in the northern lower peninsula, around mid- September in mid-state areas and approximately the third or fourth week of September for southern Michigan.

    Highest yields are often attained when seedings are made within two weeks following the posted fly-free-date. When wheat is planted within a few days of the fly-free-date, seeding rates and fall-applied nitrogen rates should be significantly reduced.

    2. Seeding depth

    Attaining a consistent seed depth is important in that it will increase the probability of even emergence. Usually, a planting depth of 1 to 1.5 inches is sufficient in heavy soil. Deeper seed placement may have an advantage when some types of winter stresses occur, but usually this is outweighed by the advantage in more rapid emergence posed by more shallowly placed seed. Where planting depths of 2 inches or greater may advantageous is when a coarse soil is very dry. In this case, seed should be planted as deep as possible to reach moist soil.

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    3. Seeding rate

    Michigan State University Extension’s recommendation is to plant between 1.4 and 2.2 million seeds per acre. Seeding rates on the lower end of the range should be reserved for fields being planted within a week of the fly-free-date. Using high seeding rates are discouraged when seeding relatively early as it may lead to overly thick stands that could increase the probability of lodging as the plants approach maturity.

    As the calendar advances, seeding rates should become progressively higher. If planting continues into the second half of October, the seeding rate should be increased to at least 1.8 million seeds per acre. The seeding rates should also be adjusted upward when seed is of questionable quality.

    Table 1 identifies the pounds of seed needed based on the number of seeds per pound and your population target. For example, if the seed bag specifies 14,000 seeds per pound and the target seeding rate is 1.8 million seeds per acre, 129 pounds of seed would be needed per acre.

    Table 2 is useful for assessing the number of seeds being dropped by each row unit (7.5-inch row spacing) and for evaluating actual emergence.

    Table 1. Relating seed size and seeding rates to the amount of seed required per acre

    Seed size (seeds/ lb.) Target seeding rates (millions of seeds per acre)
    1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 2.0 2.1
    Amount of seed required (lbs./acre)
    10,000 160 170 180 190 200 210
    11,000 145 155 164 173 182 191
    12,000 133 142 150 158 167 175
    13,000 123 131 138 146 154 162
    14,000 114 121 129 136 143 150
    15,000 107 113 120 127 133 140
    16,000 100 106 113 119 125 131
    17,000 94 100 106 111 118 124
    18,000 89 94 100 106 111 117

    * Seeds per acre / seeds per lb. = lbs. of seed per acre

    Table 2. Relating target seeding rate per acre to seed and seedling numbers (for 7.5-inch row spacing)

    Target seeding rate (millions per acre) Seeds per feet of row¹ Seedlings per feet of row²
    1.4 20.1 18.5 (92%)
    1.6 23.0 20.7 (90%)
    1.8 25.8 22.7 (88%)
    2.0 28.7 24.7 (86%)
    2.2 31.6 26.5 (84%)

    ¹ Target seeding rate/ 43560 X 0 .625 = seeds per ft of row (7.5” spacing). Seeds per sq. ft. = target seeding rate/43,560.
    ² An estimated emergence rate is given in brackets as percent (the rate tends to decline as seed rates increase).

    Hessian fly-free-dates for Michigan

    County Sept. County Sept. County Sept. County Sept.
    Alcona 6 Eaton 16 Lapeer 15 Ogemaw 10
    Allegan 20 Emmett 4 Leelanau 8 Osceola 10
    Alpena 9 Genesee 17 Lenawee 25 Oscoda 7
    Antrim 4 Gladwin 12 Livingston 16 Otsego 6
    Arenac 13 Grand Traverse 8 Macomb 18 Ottawa 19
    Barry 18 Gratiot 15 Manistee 13 Presque Isle 8
    Bay 14 Hillsdale 19 Mason 13 Roscommon 7
    Benzie 16 Huron 13 Mecosta 12 Saginaw 16
    Berrien 23 Ingham 17 Midland 15 Sanilac 15
    Branch 19 Ionia 16 Missaukee 9 St. Clair 16
    Calhoun 19 Iosco 7 Monroe 21 St. Joseph 23
    Cass 22 Isabella 11 Montcalm 15 Shiawassee 16
    Charlevoix 3 Jackson 16 Montmorency 7 Tuscola 15
    Cheboygan 4 Kalamazoo 20 Muskegon 18 Van Buren 22
    Clare 12 Kalkaska 5 Newaygo 15 Washtenaw 18
    Clinton 17 Kent 18 Oakland 16 Wayne 18
    Crawford 6 Lake 13 Oceana 16 Wexford 9



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